The Decline of Infant Mortality in England and Wales 1871-1948: A Medical Conundrum. The Case of Lyncombe & Widcombe (Bath, Somerset) 1871-1911

Hack, Jane (2000). The Decline of Infant Mortality in England and Wales 1871-1948: A Medical Conundrum. The Case of Lyncombe & Widcombe (Bath, Somerset) 1871-1911. The Open University.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.21954/ou.ro.0000f974

Abstract

According to civil registration data for England & Wales there was little or no change in the infant mortality rate during the nineteenth century. At the beginning of the twentieth century, however, rates began to decline rapidly, falling from 150 per 1,000 live births in 1900, to approximately 6 per 1,000 today. This dissertation, part of a wider research project, examines the pattern of infant mortality in the district of Lyncombe & Widcombe, Bath (Somerset) between the years 1871-1911. Particular attention has been paid to the area known as the Dolemeads, situated between the River Avon and the Kennet & Avon Canal. Data has been extracted from local primary sources such as Vaccination Registers and Medical Officer of Health Reports for the years 1871, 1892 and 1911, in order to study levels of infant mortality and to identify possible causes. The different variables examined include improvement to the urban environment, particularly the water supply, and to the domestic environment, including housing, infant feeding, socio-economic status and fertility decline.

The main conclusion of this study is that the underlying IMR for Lyncombe & Widcombe declined throughout the period 1871-1911, in contrast to both the national trend and also the pattern of decline in other districts within the city. No single factor can be identified as having had the greatest impact on the reduction of infant deaths, however, improvements in living conditions including the provision of new Council-funded housing and better healthcare for nursing mothers, may have made a significant contribution to the decline.

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