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Short-term and spatial variations in infectious disease mortality in England 1600-1837


Between 1600 and 1837 the nation transformed from a predominantly agrarian society to an increasingly urbanised and industrial one with an integrated national transport systems. As England rose in prominence on a global scale it also became increasingly embedded in an array of international trading and migration flows. This pilot project running for one year and funded by the Wellcome Trust investigated epidemiological drivers of change in the volatility of mortality in England during this period of great social and economic change, and the extent to which different locations in England shared the same short-term experience of mortality.

Spatial convergence between annual burials totals for pairs of parishes 1600-49

Image as described adjacent

We used counts of burials to measure the changing volatility of mortality over the long term. For a sub-set of parishes we also considered adult and child burials separately in an attempt to establish a more detailed chronology and geography of the divergence in the levels of child and adult mortality that is thought to have occurred in the early eighteenth century. We investigated the relationship between settlement size and endemicisation of childhood diseases by considering the regularity of peaks in particular infectious diseases for settlements of different population size, from small rural hamlets to whole towns. We considered the uses of cause of death data when combined with ages in parish registers, concentrating in particular on drivers of early childhood mortality. A preliminary GIS was constructed that allowed parishes to be represented as nodes in networks of locations whose burials totals were moderately or strongly correlated in particular time periods, allowing us to examine spatial convergence in mortality fluctuations and to evaluate these in the light of topography and road and water connections.