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Department of Geography

 

 

Infant and child mortality in London, 1870-1929

Sarah Rafferty, PhD candidate

General summary

This PhD project strives to understand the inequalities of infant and child mortality in London at the turn of the twentieth century, and to add to the debate on historical infant mortality decline. Despite being one urban area, London was – and still is – a 'mosaic of communities' with its inhabitants' experiences varying vastly. It is also a city with considerable historical data availability, therefore providing huge potential for comparative analysis. A mixed method approach that utilises both quantitative and qualitative sources enables individual Londoners and aggregate London registration sub-districts (RSDs) to be compared.

The project can be broken down into three main sections. The first section aims to compare and contrast different data sources and methods in order to determine the accuracy of aggregate infant mortality rates. The second section aims to employ multilevel spatial modelling techniques to visualise and understand the inequalities of infant and child mortality. The third section aims to develop and add depth to the quantitative results through archival sources, ultimately adding insights to the historical infant mortality decline debate.

The key quantitative sources for this project are official statistics, notably the censuses of England and Wales (digitised by the Integrated Census Microdata project) and the Registrar-General's Quarterly Reports. The key qualitative sources are Medical Officer of Health Reports (digitised by the Wellcome Trust's London's Pulse Project), as well as materials in the London Metropolitan Archives.

Selected outputs

  • Rafferty, S., (2021) 'Can indirect estimation methods and the Medical Officer of Health Reports 'correct' distorted infant mortality rates reported by the Registrar-General? The case of London, 1896-1911', Local Population Studies, 106(1): 57-81. doi: https://doi.org/10.35488/lps106.2021.57
  • Rafferty, S., (2021) 'Correcting miscoded male Textile Workers, Miners and Agricultural Labourers living in London in 1911 I-CeM.' Working paper. doi: https://doi.org/10.17863/CAM.73629.
  • 'Class or place? A quantitative analysis of child mortality in early twentieth century London'. Invited talk at the European Society of Historical Demography Seminar Series, Virtual (May 2021)
  • 'Multi-level modelling using the 1911 'Fertility Census': analysing historical under-five mortality inequalities in London'. Oral presentation at the British Society for Population Studies Annual Conference, Virtual (September 2020)
  • 'Infant mortality decline in London, 1870-1929: an exploratory spatial analysis of patterns and determinants.' Oral presentation at the third European Society of Historical Demography Conference, University of PĂ©cs, Hungary (June 2019)

Figure 1: 1911 infant mortality rates (5-year average) for the Registration Sub-Districts of London. Raw data from the Registrar General's Reports and base-map digitised by Joe Day.

map of 1911 infant mortality rates (5-year average) for London Registration Sub-Districts

Figure 2: Extract from Charles Booth's London Poverty Maps, 1898-9. Public Domain via the London School of Economics.

Extract from Charles Booth's London Poverty Maps, 1898-9.

Figure 3: Photograph of a section of the 1904 Registrar General's Quarterly Returns births and deaths table, taken by Sarah Rafferty.

Photograph of a section of the 1904 Registrar General's Quarterly Returns births and deaths table