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Birth Control, Sex, and Marriage in Britain 1918-1960$
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Kate Fisher

Print publication date: 2006

Print ISBN-13: 9780199267361

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2007

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199267361.001.0001

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‘It never does to plan anything’ 1

‘It never does to plan anything’ 1

(p.76) 2 ‘It never does to plan anything’1
Birth Control, Sex, and Marriage in Britain 1918-1960

Kate Fisher (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

This chapter challenges the assumption — which informs family planning programmes and policy initiatives across the globe — that ‘rational’ future planning is an essential prerequisite for systematic family limitation. It argues that although an ‘ethos of planning’ was emerging, such an approach appealed only to some in certain sections of society. The available evidence on reproductive decision-making during the early 20th century is used to show that a calculative attitude towards childbearing was not always central to deliberations about birth control, particularly in working-class communities. Birth control was frequently used sporadically, with the aim of reducing the general risk of pregnancy without preventing it altogether. Couples chose a fluid and contingent approach which preserved elements of a fatalistic mentality, a veneration of the providential intervention of nature, God, or biology. They could thus achieve successful family limitation without engaging in an apparently calculated or ‘cold’ exercise.

Keywords:   family planning, population, demography, policy, fertility decline, decision-making, conjugal communication

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