The value of classic information

medium_111515924I’ve been asked several questions lately about the Midwifery: Best Practice series, which I edited a few years ago, and this has inspired me to rewrite my Books page to include more information about all of my books.  It has led to me having conversations about an issue that is close to my heart – the value of classic as well as recent information – and, as a result of this, I’ve decided to  blog about it as well… A bit of background first, though, for anyone who might not have known me ten years ago… I edited the Midwifery Best Practice series for several years, from about 2003 to 2008.  They were midwifed by a brilliant woman who worked for Elsevier, Mary Seager, and we created five volumes in total – which, to answer the question I am most commonly asked about them, all contain completely different material and are not updates of the same book!  I was merely their editor; the books contain articles that were originally published in The Practising Midwife and, in later volumes, Midwifery and The Journal of Midwifery and Women’s Health.  These articles were grouped into themes and supplemented with extra material written especially for these volumes.  Each contained core sections relating to women and midwives, pregnancy, labour and birth, the postnatal / neonatal period and a lovely varied collection of articles under the heading of ‘stories and reflection’.  This was always my favourite section to put together, although creating the entire series was fun – if also domestically disruptive, as it tended to involve me covering the floor of my office and often also the living room with open copies of a year or two’s worth of journals as I decided which articles we would include and how they would fit together! Changes in use over time… The books were aimed mainly at student and qualified midwives, but I’ve been fascinated and delighted to discover recently that these books are now also being used by aspiring midwives and other birth workers who want to gain a broad understanding of various issues relating to midwifery practice.  But I know that it’s not easy to find the chapter / topics lists online, so in answer to one of the questions I’m most often asked, here’s a quick overview:

  • Each volume contains core collections of articles relating to the broad topics of (1) women, midwives and choice, (2) pregnancy, (3) labour and birth, (4) the postnatal experience and (5) stories and reflection (although the titles of those sections do vary slightly throughout the series).  The additional sections are as follows:

But the real point of this post is… While I was putting that list together for those who had requested this, I got thinking and chatting to a few people – again – about how we view and value information in our fast-paced, modern world. I think that these books especially trigger me to ponder this area because of the era in which they – along with some others that I’ll mention in a moment – were written.  I’m not saying it’s the only era of interest, because that would just be silly, but it was an interesting time.  There was a period of about a decade or so in which a number of UK publishers were keen to publish books for midwives, and midwives were increasingly valuing critical thinking and undertaking analyis of research and practice from a midwifery perspective.  I’ve got a whole bookshelf of the results of this fab combination; Eating and Drinking in Labour, Waterbirth: an attitude to care, The art and soul of midwifery…  There are twenty or thirty more, and they represent a window which opened after we midwives (at least in the UK) had found our writing voices and which sadly seemed to narrow a few years later when it was decided by those who did the sums that we were too small a group to need as many books of that type… I don’t want to sound like the nostalgic voiceover person on a Sunday afternoon film who laments the golden years of the midwifery literature, because there are plenty of new ways for us to share our knowledge with each other now and in the future and, as I said, I am delighted that people are rediscovering these.  I have written before about my concern that the emphasis that is placed on students having to cite very recent literature means that there is a devaluing of core and classic knowledge in certain areas, but I am not going to argue for a moment that books such as those mentioned above or the articles in compilations like the Midwifery: Best Practice series don’t need to be supplemented by their modern counterparts. What I want to do is to urge us not to forget the value of what was written in times past; for in some areas these were the books and articles in which midwives first wrote about the ideas that still underpin much of what we still discuss on facebook or in the coffee room, or write in our essays.  Some of these texts and articles contain the first challenges that were made to the dominant paradigm, and represent the proverbial shoulders on which we stand to write our modern dissertations.    I just want them, and their value, and the eras that they represented to be allowed out now and again and not forgotten. And now I’ve got that off my chest, I think it’s about time I wrote a new book … feel free to use the comments or my facebook page if you have any requests!

photo credit: Book store. via photopin (license)

1 comment for “The value of classic information

  1. Carol Dunlop
    January 22, 2015 at 1:31 pm

    Hi Sara,I totally agree. I did some papers around adult teaching, and was very surprised that the literature used to support educational theory was so old. After some thought though, it was apparent that these were key ideas – they may have been subsequently developed by others, but generally educational theory acknowledged these forward thinkers, often the first to think outside the dominant paradigm. I see absolutely no reason to throw the baby out with the bath water in terms of midwifery, just because information is not ‘new’. Midwifery is not new, either, and that engrained knowledge is valuable, and our heritage to pass to others,
    Cheers, Carol

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