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Barry, Birth and the British Empire

The History Department's 'take-over' of the library included a review of Michael de Preez and Jeremy Dronfield's biography of Dr James Barry. Born Margaret Bulkely but forced to assume an externally male form in order to train and practice as a Doctor, Barry was the first surgeon to successfully deliver a baby by caesarean section within the British Empire.

Her life was a remarkable tale of deception, illustrating the incredible lengths to which women were forced to go in order to pursue an education and employment. Her life is also a great illustration of the way in which the British Empire operated during the 1800s, with vivid descriptions of life amongst the military barracks in far flung islands such as St Helena and Barbados as well as the Cape Colony and the Seychelles. Barry enjoyed a remarkable life as a hugely accomplished medical practitioner. That she did so disguised as a man is all the more remarkable.


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