Mortality in London - Poverty makes no difference

A recent study published in the London Journal has produced some surprising results. Among the most surprising conclusion is:

'There appears to have been a minimal social class gradient in infant, child and adult mortality in London during the period 1550 - 1850.'

This is the opposite conclusion to that which is commonly believed.

In addition they found that infant and child mortality more than doubled between the 18th and the 18th century - i.e. child mortality was quite low during the 16th and 17th Centuries. In peaked in the mid 18th Century during which time more than 2/3rd of all children dying by their fifth birthday. Note this is irrespective of wealth of the parents!. (there was no corresponding increase in adult mortality in this period)

From the middle of the 18th Century mortality fell so that by 1850 'only' about 30% died by the age of 5.

The study also shows that the end of the plague made no difference to rates of mortality suggesting other diseases became more virulent - in particular smallpox and typhus. There was in increase in fever deaths.

The number of fever deaths began to fall in the mid 18th Century - probably due to gradual elimination of typus infection. The study mentions the replacement of woollen underwear by linen and cotton and more effective washing - involving boiling of clothing which progressively eliminated body lice and typhus. The authors also mention use of Colustrum in breast feeding, and innoculation but come to the conclusion that the improvement in health care comes from decline of 'dirt diseases' and was a result of cleaning up the environment and that this explains why the improvements are across the board and not class related.

The report clearly has implications for how historians consider poverty in this period.

The article is published the London Journal (Vol32, Nov 2007 Pg 271-292) by Peter Razzell and Christine Spence on 'The history of infant, child and Adult Mortality in London, 1550 -1850'


Popular posts from this blog

New Web site and Blog

Updated Lincoln's Inn Fields Wikipedia page

New film on Mary Anning starring Kate Winslet