In September 1726, Mary Toft began giving birth to seventeen rabbits or parts of rabbits in Godalming, Surrey. Toft had looked at the animals during her pregnancy and their image was imprinted on her foetus.
This lecture explores why so many contemporaries believed in the hoax, as well as examining why Toft pretended to give birth to rabbits. Many portrayed Toft as a devious woman who set out to hoodwink the doctors and make her fortune, yet this lecture offers other explanations for the extraordinary actions of Toft and her family.
Karen Harvey, Professor of Cultural History at the University of Sheffield, explores the social, physical and emotional experiences Toft underwent, situating these in a longer history of knowledge about pregnancy and the work of contemporary midwives, gynaecologists and reproductive medicine research.