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About the Cambridge Group

The Cambridge Group for the History of Population & Social Structure was founded in 1964. In the fifty years since then, members of the Group have made a spectacular series of discipline-transforming contributions to social science history. These include work on historical demography and household structure, on the interdependence of these elements with welfare systems, and on occupational structure.

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The occupational structure of Britain 1379-1911

This research program directed by Leigh Shaw-Taylor and Tony Wrigley aims ultimately to reconstruct the evolution of the occupational structure of Britain from the late medieval period down to the early twentieth century. The project has been designated as a British Academy Research project since 2007 (renewed for a further five years in 2016).

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Our research seeks to understand the demographic pressures and choices people in past societies experienced, from the medieval period to the recent past. We focus primarily on the population history of the world's first industrial nation, Britain, understood within the context of European and global developments.

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Radical changes in the form and location of economic activity, income and wealth have occurred in Britain and Europe in various phases from Medieval times up to the present. These affected personal economic opportunity, the occupational choices of the population, their welfare, mobility, skills, consumption and demographic structures. These in turn influenced the development of business growth and innovation, and the economies of localities, regions and nations.

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Welfare systems both past and present rely upon a combination of support supplied by kin and charity, either legally enforced or voluntary. This research theme is concerned with exploring the demographic, legal and economic underpinnings of past welfare regimes in order to throw light on the different strategies which societies have adopted to support their most vulnerable members. More broadly, this research theme encompasses the economic and social implications of demographic change.

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The surprising geography of smallpox in England before vaccination: a conundrum resolved

26th April, 2018


A new paper by CAMPOP members, Romola Davenport, Max Satchell and Leigh Shaw-Taylor, demonstrates a strong north-south divide in the impact of smallpox in Britain before vaccination. Mining c. 7 million burial records for evidence of smallpox deaths, the study established that smallpox was an endemic childhood disease in northern Britain, but remained a relatively rare epidemic disease affecting adults as well as children in southern England. This was an unexpected finding, because compared to most of Britain southern England was relatively densely settled and economically developed with good transport connections, factors expected to promote disease circulation.

The study, published in the journal Social Science and Medicine, provided evidence that very local public health initiatives in southern England, especially in the form of isolation of sufferers in pest houses, and later mass immunisation, were the main factors in establishing the north-south pattern. This study demonstrates the surprising efficacy of uncoordinated and small-scale interventions to control the most lethal disease of eighteenth century Europe.

New interactive website,, now live!

24th April, 2018, a new online interactive Atlas of Victorian and Edwardian Population, is now live!

Explore regional and local variations in a range of demographic and household indicators and how these changed between 1851 and 1911, zoom in to focus on particular areas, compare two maps side-by-side, and download the underlying data much of which has been calculated from individual level census data. More resources will be added over the coming months.

Created by a team led by Dr Alice Reid of the Cambridge Group for the History of Population and Social Structure (Campop) at the Department of Geography, University of Cambridge, with help from colleagues at the Universities of Essex and Leicester and funding from the ESRC and the Isaac Newton Trust. The site coding was implemented by Geography's own Webmaster.

Inaugural meeting of ENCHPOPGOS network

19th September, 2017


The inaugural meeting of the ENCHPOPGOS network will take place on 25th to 27th September at Robinson College, Cambridge. ENCHPOPGOS, the European Network for the Comparative History of Population Geography and Occupational Structure, brings together scholars from all over Europe who are or plan to work on similar projects and are committed to working in a commensurable and common framework over the period 1500-1914 to create datasets not merely of national occupational structures but scalable datasets at the local and regional levels.

The network is co-ordinated by Dr Leigh Shaw-Taylor, Director of CAMPOP, and Dr Alexis Litvine.

Sebastian Keibek wins new researcher's prize at the Economic History Society Conference

18th April, 2016


Congratulations to Sebastian Keibek, a PhD student at CAMPOP, who was joint winner of the new researcher's prize at the Economic History Society 2016 Annual Conference, held on 1-3 April at Robinson College, Cambridge. The title of Sebastian's paper was: 'The regional and national male occupational structure of England and Wales, 1600-1820'.

Eve Also Delved: Gendering Economic History

5th January, 2016


The Ellen McArthur lectures in economic history, to be held at the Law Faculty at 5pm on 23rd & 24th February and 1st & 2nd March 2016, will be given by Professor Jane Humphries, University of Oxford.

Women from all times and regions will be seen about their daily lives, at work and at home, in these 4 lectures. New sources will be used to reconstruct and analyze their many productive contributions to their families and communities. Snapshots in time and micro studies underpin a more general account which can then be related to the grand narratives of British economic history. Jane Humphries will argue that we need to acknowledge the productive activities of women and children to build not only a more complete but a more correct economic history.

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  • 15th November 2018:
    Conflict management in northern Europe, 1350-1570. Details…
  • 19th November 2018:
    Years of Turbulence, Years of Hope: Central African Copperbelt and the Industrial Development in Congo-Léopoldville and Zambia, from the Political Independence to the Economic Nationalization . Details…
  • 22nd November 2018:
    Movers and stayers: populations, movement and measurement in historical demography. Details…
  • 26th November 2018:
    The diffusion of mechanised technologies in the West Riding of Yorkshire textile industry c.1780­‐1911 and its impact on employment and wages. Details…
  • 29th November 2018:
    Inducements to technical innovation in the British Industrial Revolution: markets, materiality and the invention of the spinning jenny. Details…