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Research projects

Research projects currently being undertaken on this theme include:

Migration, Mortality and Medicalisation: investigating the long-run epidemiological consequences of urbanisation 1600 - 1945

Migration, Mortality and Medicalisation: investigating the long-run epidemiological consequences of urbanisation 1600 - 1945

Today life expectancy is generally higher in urban than rural populations, but early modern towns and cities were demographic sinks with extraordinarily high mortality, especially among the young and migrants who were essential for city growth. The breakthrough to urban natural increase that occurred in the late eighteenth century and the eradication of the urban penalty in the 1930s mark the endpoints of major epidemiological transitions. We seek to investigate how and when cities transformed from urban graveyards into promoters of health between 1600 and 1945. We hypothesize that the process of endemicisation and exogenous disease variation is key to the evolution of both urban and non-urban mortality regimes, especially with respect to: (i) infectious disease among the young; (ii) maternal health; (iii) adult migrants and their health/immunological status.

An Atlas of Fertility Decline in England and Wales

An Atlas of Fertility Decline in England and Wales

This project utilises individual-level data from the British censuses of 1851 to 1911 recently released by the Integrated Census Microdata (I-CeM) project to calculate age-specific fertility rates both for a range of geographical units covering England and Wales and for occupational groups and then to use spatial analysis techniques to investigate the relationships between these rates and other socioeconomic variables.

Humanitarian crises, population displacement and epidemic diseases, 1901–2010

Humanitarian crises, population displacement and epidemic diseases, 1901–2010

Wars, political upheavals, environmental disasters and other forms of humanitarian crisis have served to precipitate the mass displacement of populations since biblical times. This project examines the mass population displacement–disease link attributable to the nexus of causes – including war, political repression, development projects, environmental change and disasters. The overarching aim is to produce the first systematic study of the global geography of epidemic-prone infectious diseases associated with mass population displacements in the twentieth and early twenty-first centuries.

Mortality and epidemiological change in Manchester, 1750-1850

Mortality and epidemiological change in Manchester, 1750-1850

This study will examine both the dramatic improvements in urban mortality after 1750, and the apparent reversals in the period 1820-1850, using evidence from the burial records of the pre-eminent manufacturing city of the nineteenth century, Manchester.

Long-run cause of death series for national populations

Long-run cause of death series for national populations

The proximate causes of the extraordinary increases in life expectancy since the late nineteenth century are changes in the causes of death, the most significant being the shift from infectious diseases of childhood and early adulthood to chronic diseases of late adulthood. To understand these changes we need long-run and comprehensive series of death rates by cause of death and age at death, that allow analysis of changes in the levels and age structure of cause-specific mortality. Cause of death data are inevitably problematic, as diagnoses and nomenclature are historically specific. However the use of complete cause of death series makes it possible to detect shifts in the distribution of deaths between categories, and to estimate the effects of such changes in nosology on observed rates.

The transformation of the urban epidemiological regime, 1750-1850

The transformation of the urban epidemiological regime, 1750-1850

This transformation of the urban epidemiological regime is the subject of a long-run research project which uses a variety of sources to investigate mortality change in northwest Europe in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

The origins of the modern mortality regime: infant mortality by social status in Georgian London

The origins of the modern mortality regime: infant mortality by social status in Georgian London

This project will address two key questions in population history: how were cities transformed from demographic sinks into self-sustaining populations; and when and why did class differences in mortality emerge? The late eighteenth century constitutes a watershed in epidemiological and population history, and marks the beginning of the demographic transition in England.

Birth attendants and birth outcomes in the Victorian and Edwardian eras

Birth attendants and birth outcomes in the Victorian and Edwardian eras

This research page gathers together work relating to birth attendants (midwives and doctors) and their relation to perinatal and maternal mortality in Victorian and Edwardian England and Scotland.

Agrarian Change in an Industrializing County: Staffordshire, 1650-1750

Agrarian Change in an Industrializing County: Staffordshire, 1650-1750

The project examines aspects of agrarian change, early industrial change and occupational change in the county of Staffordshire in the early modern period. It addresses the dearth of work on pastoral regions as opposed to the much studied arable eastern and southern areas of England. Staffordshire is renowned for its precocious early population growth, and early industrial development in metal-wares, pottery and glass stemming from its varied rich mineral reserves of, amongst others, coal, clay, ironstone and limestone. It is a classic area of by-employment where, according to Thirsk, farming households took up domestic manufacture when work was slack.

The Demography of Early Modern London circa 1550 to 1750

The Demography of Early Modern London circa 1550 to 1750

London in the early modern period was a rapidly-expanding pre-industrial metropolis, growing from c. 80,000 to over 700,000 inhabitants between 1550 and 1750, coming to contain a tenth of the country's population and perhaps half of its urban population. This growth was fuelled by high levels of in-migration from elsewhere in England, for very high levels of infant and child mortality precluded the possibility of growth through natural increase. While early modern London was unique for its time, developments there came to have wider significance, for they pre-dated, and to some extent prefigured, the experience of provincial cities that mushroomed in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

An empirical base for understanding the early phase of the epidemiological transition: Short-term and spatial variations in infectious disease mortality in England 1600-1837

An empirical base for understanding the early phase of the epidemiological transition: Short-term and spatial variations in infectious disease mortality in England 1600-1837

The 'epidemiological transition' defined by Omran as a shift through time from a phase dominated by 'pestilence and famine' to one of 'receding pandemics' has long been regarded to have been a product of socio-economic, technological and medical influences. In an English context limited success has been achieved in providing effective epidemiological explanations for a substantial diminution in the volatility of short-term death rates associated with infectious disease outbreaks between c. 1650 and c.1800. This pilot project running for one year (2012) and funded by the Wellcome Trust investigates the extent to which different locations in England shared the same short-term experience of mortality from c. 1600-1837 as the nation transformed from a predominantly agrarian society to an increasingly urbanised and industrial one with an integrated national transport systems as well as becoming embedded in an array of international trading and migration flows.

Housing, mobility and the measurement of child health from the 1911 Irish census

Housing, mobility and the measurement of child health from the 1911 Irish census

This project investigates short-term residential mobility in an Edwardian industrial city, examines the influences in infant and child mortality in this context and considers the validity of trying to measure the impact of cross-sectionally measured characteristics, such as housing, on infant mortality measured using the retrospective census questions in the 1911 census on ‘children ever born’ and ‘children surviving’. It is suspected that using time-specific data with longitudinal data creates biases in certain dimensions of the health-housing relationship and the study hopes to identify the nature and extent of these and, accounting for them, to re-assess current knowledge.

Doctors, deaths, diagnoses and data: a comparative study of the medical certification of cause of death in nineteenth century Scotland

Doctors, deaths, diagnoses and data: a comparative study of the medical certification of cause of death in nineteenth century Scotland

This project examines death certificates for individuals in the light of knowledge about the certifying doctors' backgrounds, to improve knowledge of the local and particular circumstances of death and disease in urban and rural Scotland. The findings will contribute to a better understanding of the historic relationship between doctors, their diagnoses of cause of death, and the data created from these which has informed previous interpretations of changes over time and of social and spatial differentials in health and medical provision.

English welfare practices and their demographic correlates c. 1600-1834)

English welfare practices and their demographic correlates c. 1600-1834)

This broad area of research brings together a number of concepts and empirical investigation relating to the operation of the English Old Poor Law. The focus of this work is on the period c. 1650-1834 in England but it attempts to be comparative in considering welfare provisioning in the centuries prior to the formal establishment of the Poor Law in 1601 and the period following the Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834. Some research comparing the interconnections between welfare practices and demographic behaviour in England and France is also undertaken within this research area.

Longevity changes and their determinants in England and her European neighbours c.1600-1900

Longevity changes and their determinants in England and her European neighbours c.1600-1900

In the analysis of contemporary adult longevity there has been a shift away from explanations that focus on adult life-style determined risk factors towards an emphasis on biologically programmed influences in utero or in very early infancy. This project uses historic data sets to assess the relevance of the aforementioned approaches under conditions primarily of natural (uncontrolled) fertility and mortality regimes dominated by a high incidence of infectious or epidemic disease. Economically modestly situated individuals in parish-register based family reconstitutions are compared with aristocratic elites whose life courses are constructed from genealogies. Contrasts are also made between persons on the basis of their sex, marital status and exposure to childbearing as well as the degree of correlation between their fertility and mortality.

The geography of crime and disorder: offences, offenders and victimization

The geography of crime and disorder: offences, offenders and victimization

A number of projects fall under this broad heading and currently involve collaboration with colleagues at Cambridge in Geography as well as the Institute of Criminology. The methodological orientation of all this work is quantitative (spatial analysis, spatial modelling and using GIS for data management and display) because research typically uses large police recorded crime datasets.

Geographical epidemiology: air quality and public health

Geographical epidemiology: air quality and public health

This research investigates the importance of air pollution as a risk factor for strokes for coronary heart disease and stroke, by making extensive use of GIS technology and spatial data analysis.

Earlier projects