The decline of infant mortality in England and Wales, 1871-1948: a medical conundrum. The Shropshire experience - Norbury and Lydbury North Registration Sub-Districts, 1891-1902.

Culshaw, GM (1998). The decline of infant mortality in England and Wales, 1871-1948: a medical conundrum. The Shropshire experience - Norbury and Lydbury North Registration Sub-Districts, 1891-1902. The Open University.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.21954/ou.ro.0000feb8

Abstract

This research, which was conducted as part of a nation-wide project, concerns the structure of infant mortality in two rural registration sub-districts in South Shropshire during the period 1891-1902. Whereas most academic writing on the subject has been based on official statistics that do not facilitate local research, this project is based on the use of a novel primary source - the Births Registers that were kept by Vaccination Officers. In an exercise in nominal record linkage, data from this source is supplemented by information from local sources, to provide a unique, multi-faceted view of infant mortality.

Research results are treated in the context of the work of other academics, with comparisons between the two sub-districts and with national statistics. Analysis is carried out in several frameworks - geographical, environmental and social.

Overall annual infant mortality rates show significant fluctuations, and comparison between the rates in the sub-districts and their constituent parishes reveals marked differences, lending support to C.H. Lee’s thesis (1991) regarding the varied regional experience of infant mortality. Analysis in terms of occupation shows that differences in rates between the two sub-districts largely reflect their different social structures.

The high level of neo-natal infant mortality reported by G. Newman (1906) is confirmed, and an in-depth study at family level facilitates the detailed treatment of families in which more than one infant death occurred.

With a caveat concerning the small size of the statistics on which the results of this research were based, the writer concludes that the overall results show that the highest rates of infant mortality occurred mainly in poor families. This confirms the view expressed by several academics, e.g. Barbara Thompson (1984). He also suggests that the idea that family size was a significant factor in late nineteenth century infant mortality is worthy of further examination.

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