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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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Dr Alice Reid elected President of the British Society for Population Studies

30th September, 2021


Congratulations to Dr Alice Reid who has been elected President of the
British Society for Population Studies.

The enduring geography of mortality and its social causes

7th July, 2021


"If you had a map of Covid's biggest effects now and a map of child deaths in 1850, they look remarkably similar" said Professor Chris Whitty, the Chief Medical Officer of England and Wales, recently. The BBC interviewed Alice Reid and used data from Populations Past, her interactive website on Victorian and Edwardian population, for a news article on the endurance of patterns in mortality and its social causes.

Did industrialisation really raise mortality rates in English cities?

24th June, 2021


And why is this question so difficult to answer? A new paper by Romola Davenport, published in a special issue on health and industrialisation in the International Journal of Paleopathology, provides a succinct summary of the state of historical knowledge about urban mortality patterns during the Industrial Revolution and highlights where collaborations between archaeologists and historians are vital to new understanding.

Census 2021 public engagement podcasts

19th March, 2021


Alice Reid and Sophy Arulanantham from the Cambridge Group for the History of Population and Social Structure have teamed up with Year 8s from South Wales to co-produce census-related public engagement material. Check out our podcasts in which year 8s interview census experts. This public engagement project is funded by the AHRC and ESRC in conjunction with The National Archives and the Office for National Statistics.

Engaging the public in the Census 2021

26th February, 2021


Dr Alice Reid and colleagues have been awarded one of 15 projects by the AHRC/ESRC to engage the public in Census 2021. This project will inform KS3 students about the relevance of the Census, provide insight into being a data-driven social scientist and enhance the school curriculum. Using Census returns from the early nineteenth century to the present day, students from South Wales state schools will co-produce school resources that explore aspects of Census taking and Census data.

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  • 16th February 2022:
    Changing demography: eastern European female migrants to England at the end of 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries. Details…
  • 23rd February 2022:
    Sickness experience in England, 1870-1949. Details…
  • 9th March 2022:
    Adding to the census: using Medical Officer of Health Reports to further our understanding of child mortality inequalities in early twentieth century London. Details…