The conquest of infant mortality: the case of Hemsworth, 1871-1911

Davies, Linda Margaret (2007). The conquest of infant mortality: the case of Hemsworth, 1871-1911. PhD thesis The Open University.



This thesis began as part of wider project undertaken by postgraduate students of the Open University looking at the decline of infant mortality during the period 1871-1911. The main primary source for this has been the Vaccination Registers which were produced to record vaccination of infants under the Vaccination Act of 1871. Under this Act vaccination against smallpox became compulsory for all infants. The registers therefore give us a unique opportunity to examine the data on all infants born during this period in the areas where the registers survive.

The district selected for this thesis is the Hemsworth district in the West Riding of Yorkshire. In 1871 the economy of the district was purely based on agriculture, but by 1911 several deep coal mines had been sunk in the area which had led to a rapid and steep rise in the population. This rise in the population was accompanied by an increase in infant mortality which grew from below the mean for England and Wales in 1871, to above the mean by the late 1890s. Unlike most of the rest of the country the IMR in Hemsworth did not actually begin to decline until 1905.

This thesis examines the causes of the high IMR through a comparison between a large village which grew to be a colliery township. South Kirkby, and those townships in the district which remained purely agricultural even after the sinking of the deep mines. A micro-study of one street in South Kirkby with a particularly high IMR facilitates a detailed examination of the households and the infant deaths which occurred there.

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