Rural industrialisation, urbanisation and infant mortality in Higham Ferrers, Northamptonshire, 1879-1910 : a vaccination register study

James, Tricia (2007). Rural industrialisation, urbanisation and infant mortality in Higham Ferrers, Northamptonshire, 1879-1910 : a vaccination register study. PhD thesis The Open University.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.21954/ou.ro.0000d56c

Abstract

In this study the experience of infants born between 1879 and 1910 is examined to determine whether the urban-rural effect seen in larger, more industrial settings was also present in a small town set in a rural community. The area researched is the Higham Ferrers registration sub-district in Northamptonshire where industrialisation of shoemaking took place from the 1870s with consequent urbanisation of Rushden:the main manufacturing centre. Urbanisation brought with it a surge in population that overwhelmed local resources and caused deterioration of the physical environment.

The central data source used was the hitherto largely unknown smallpox vaccination birth and infant death registers which were available for the Higham Ferrers district sub-district from 1879 to 1910. These, together with a range of contemporaneous local information, provided a rich source of social and biographical information and permitted a rare opportunity to situate the infants within their family context.

The study has explored the well-documented urban-rural differences in infant mortality and shown that these were present in the Higham Ferrers despite the sizes of the parishes involved. The situation was far from straight forward however and the influences on the infant experience were found to be numerous and to have operated in a variety of different but interconnected levels: community, family and individual infant.

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