An Investigation into the Factors Influencing Infant Mortality in Cholsey Sub-District, Berkshire, 1892-1900

Buckingham, Patricia Ann (1999). An Investigation into the Factors Influencing Infant Mortality in Cholsey Sub-District, Berkshire, 1892-1900. MPhil thesis The Open University.



The recorded decline in Infant Mortality Rates from the mid nineteenth Century onwards has been attributed to factors such as improved environmental conditions, health education, and even improvements in climate. By undertaking a small area study of infant mortality rates of villages in the Sub-District of Cholsey in Berkshire for the period 1892-1900 these issues are examined in order to shed light on the factors influencing infant mortality in this particular area.

The basis of this study are Vaccination Birth Registers, little known primary sources containing standard information about all births registered in the area and deaths of infants who died before vaccination could take place. These registers, together with Parish Burial Registers, Medical Officer of Health reports, maps, a school log and other primary sources were used to construct a picture of conditions prevailing in this area for this period and they also provide a valuable insight into how vaccination was administered at a local level.

Cholsey Sub-District was chosen because Vaccination Birth registers were available and it was an area containing a diversity of environments and populations, ranging from very rural villages to rapidly expanding communities based round the industrial trades offered by a railway works. This diversity offered the opportunity to discover any significant differences in environment and to investigate whether these impacted on infant mortality rates. The period was chosen because of the wide range of evidence available and by keeping the time span relatively short a more in-depth analysis of the sources could be made.

Aspects looked at include environmental conditions such as public water supplies and sanitation, seasonality, class and occupation, which have all been cited by researchers such as Szreter (1988,1991,1994), Williams (1992), Graham (1994), and Garrett and Reid (1995), as factors influencing infant mortality rates.

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