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Abstract

During the period 1850–1899, the Infant Mortality Rate (IMR) was significantly high in many parts of Britain.1 At least 15 per cent of all infant deaths occurred in the industrial northeast and northwest areas.2 Districts such as Leeds and Manchester feature strongly in these high rates, and the historical demographer Robert Woods has argued it is these areas which should ‘command’ the historian’s attention due to their impact on the national rates during the latter half of the nineteenth century.3 Joshua Ikin, a medical practitioner working in Leeds during the 1860s, was concerned about these rates, and reiterated the concerns of the Registrars General who lamented ‘the evil of the employment of … women in work that requires them to leave their own homes’. They argued that the consequences of this was that the child:

is deprived of its proper nourishment … and that the fearful death which prevails amongst children, where the mothers work in mills or at any out of doors labour must be accounted for in a large measure by injurious influences. The deduction drawn from manufacturing towns … is that the mother is away during the greater part of the day and the child is left … the mother hardly sees her child from the time she goes to work. It is impossible she should have much of the feelings of the mother, and experience shows that she has very often none …4

The belief in the link between the high northern IMR and ‘industrial and urban motherhood’ during the period 1850–1899 still prevails today in the pertinent scholarship.

Keywords

Nineteenth Century Child Care Infant Mortality Rate Infant Death Medical Doctor 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

  1. 1.
    R. Woods and N. Shelton, (1997) An Atlas of Victorian Mortality (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press), pp. 47 and 51. This theory was based on the work of R.I. Woods, P.A. Watterson and J.H. Woodward, (1988) ‘The Causes of Rapid Infant Mortality Decline in England and Wales, 1861–1921’ Parts I and II, Population Studies, 42, pp. 43, 113–32 and 343–66, and N. Williams and C. Galley, (1995) ‘Urban Differentials in Infant Mortality in Victorian England’, Population Studies, 49, pp. 401–20. The recent work of Emma Griffin and Keith Morgan recognises these high rates. See E. Griffin, (2010) A Short History of the British Industrial Revolution (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan), p. 160 and K. Morgan, (2004) The Birth of Industrial Britain: Social Change 1750–1850 (Harlow: Pearson Longman), p. 27.Google Scholar
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Copyright information

© Melanie Reynolds 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Melanie Reynolds
    • 1
  1. 1.Oxford Brookes UniversityUK

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