A demographic and socio-economic study of March 1550-1750

Reynolds, Glynis (1987). A demographic and socio-economic study of March 1550-1750. MPhil thesis The Open University.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.21954/ou.ro.0000fc2e


This thesis aims to show the importance of the demographic characteristics of the Isle of Ely in general and of March in particular. It highlights the parochial and topographical contrasts of the Isle of Ely, characteristics which are used as a key to unravelling some of the perplexities of the demographic regime of fenland Cambridgeshire.

The introduction places the study of March’ s demographic, social and economic structure into the context of the work already completed on the Isle of Ely and other areas of eastern England, while chapter 2 discusses the limitations of the family reconstitution of March.

Chapter 3 examines the Isle of Ely’ s demographic history and establishes the periods of population growth and decline. It quickly traces the general growth and decline of the demographic situation from the late Anglo-saxon period to the sixteenth century, before concentrating in detail on the population changes from the mid-sixteenth to the mid-eighteenth century. It then considers the problem that the mounting population caused and the pressure that it put on land use. Chapter 4 investigates the means by which the inhabitants of March earned a living and establishes that the occupational structure of March changed over time.

The incidence of infant and child mortality is discussed within chapter 5. This chapter compares the levels of infant and child mortality in March with the results of other family reconstitution studies before looking at the incidence and levels of infant mortality within other Isle of Ely communities. It then suggests some of the probable causes behind the high level of infant mortality evident within March.

Chapter 6 investigates the male age at first marriage and questions whether this much neglected aspect of all demographic statistics was responding to the level of real wages or mortality levels. Marriage seasonality patterns within the Isle of Ely are explored in chapter 7. Finally, the conclusion draws together the findings and relates them back to the questions outlined in the thesis, with suggestions for further research into the demographic aspects of communities lying within ’ drowned’ economies.

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