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Abstract

This article highlights the parameters of a lifecycles project that was funded by the Irish Research Council for the Humanities and Social Sciences, entitled ‘From the cradle to the grave: lifecycles in modern Ireland (pilot study: maternity)’. The project used individual hospital records to bring the regional effects of ‘medicalization’ outside metropolitan areas into a sharper focus. With an emphasis on rural Ireland from 1926 to 1956, this ‘pilot’ study used longitudinal data modelling to explore the medicalization of the female reproductive cycle in a general hospital and again in a psychiatric hospital setting. The project team chose disparate clinical settings to test how people understood their functions, to see, for example, if medical cases were presenting to the psychiatric setting. This article describes the digitization and data modelling processes and the parameters of the research agenda. It locates the broader medical and statistical findings of the project in their socio-economic context to highlight whether such matters conditioned when and how women resorted to medical care. It discusses the analytical challenges that the project posed and points to avenues of further research and future publications. It concludes that for historical reasons, in the rural Irish context, people engaged more freely with the asylum than the general hospital setting.