6.4. Child Mortality

Following we have the mortality rates for different types of town, at the end of the eighteenth century and the beginning of the nineteenth century, taken from an earlier chapter.

Town type Under the 
age of 1
Between 
1 and 2
Between
2 and 5
Between
5 and 10
Total 
under 10 
       
London 16982          7730358
Large towns 186999334458
Smaller towns 167838832371
Village parishes 216575227352
Agricultural Parishes 132525833275

We shall see that the correct statement is not “the Industrial Revolution increased the death rate for infants and children against previous periods”, but “there was a decrease in the death rate in the agricultural counties and in London, and an increase in the industrial counties”. 

The first quantitative data which can help us to understand the probabilities of death for small children of the working class, come from reports which were required by the Lords Committee on the State of Children employed in Manufactories in 1819. This gave the total list of the heads of family in each mill or street, with names, noting the number of children living, dead, and born.

PlaceNumber of
Families
Number of 
Years married
(average)
Children
Living
Children
Dead
Children
Born
      
Cotton Mills in Holywell 
and Greenfield, Wirral
10113352138
(28 %)
490
Other Occupations in
Holywell and Greenfield,
Wirral
10117290171
(37 %)
461
Cotton Mill of Messrs. Peter
Ewart, Manchester
4167260
(45 %)
132
M’Connel and Kennedy’s
Factories, Manchester
10814307217
(41 %)
524
Spinners, Adam and
George Murray,
Manchester
13312339252
(43 %)
591
Factory of William Douglas
and Co., Pendleton
20512266192
(42 %)
458
Families, where no part of
the Family works in
Factories, Manchester
36114906747
(45 %)
1,653
Families, where Children
only Work in Factories, and
not the Parents, Manchester
17120687488
(41 %)
1,175
Families, where the Heads
of Families work in Factories,
Manchester
29215830563
(40 %)
1,393
Families of Persons in
various Employments,
Manchester
15617494435
(47 %)
929
Parent employed in Cotton
Spinning, Preston
561219672
(27 %)
268
Parent employed in any
Occupation, and some
or any of the Children
working in Cotton Mills,
Preston
5818281134
(32 %)
415
Parent employed in any
Occupation, and none of
the Children working in
Cotton Mills, Preston
5416193125
(39 %)
318
James Heginbottom and
Co.’s Cotton Mill,
Ashton-under-Line
4014050
(26 %)
190
Catrine Cotton Works, Ayr276241439599
(29 %)
2038
Village of Mauchline, Ayr24019827404
(33 %)
1231
Agricultural District of the
Parish of Mauchline, Ayr
11021543114
(32 %)
657
Wool Factory in the
Agricultural District
of Mauchline Parish
7152616
(38 %)
42
Village of Sorn, Ayr7020274101
(27 %)
375
Agricultural District of
the Parish of Sorn
16321742204
(22 %)
946
Families now or formerly
employed at the
Deanston Cotton
Works, Kilmadock,
Perth
522128375
(21 %)
358
All the married families
in the Parish of Lescropt,
Stirling
7321301 87
(22 %)
388

(Lords Committee on the State of Children …., 1819, Appendix, Tables 10 to 29)

From the number of years married in each case, we can suppose that the children (living or dead) were born in the years from about 1805 to 1819. Probably the average age of the children (or the theoretical age, had they lived) at the time of the reports would be about 10 years old. So we have a death rate up to 10 years of 40-45 % in the case of families living in Manchester, and of 20-33 % in the case of families living in villages in the Scottish Lowlands. This gives us the well-known differentiation between manufacturing regions and agricultural regions. What we do not know, is if the death rate in Manchester in the previous generation was also 40-45 % (i.e. towns had always been at this level), or had been 35 % (i.e. there were more deaths due to the more difficult environment). We note that the proportion in Manchester was 40-45 %, even for those groups of families, that did not work in the factories.

In any case, it is not pleasant to lose a number of children. In one of the lists, we find at the first position on the page, a couple married for 24 years, who had had 17 children, of whom 12 had died.

There was no worsening of the infant and child mortality rates from 1800 to 1835, we have some comments from specialists, and a calculation from Mr. George Porter of the Board of Trade.

“Section V. On the Comparative Mortality of Children before and since the Commencement of the Present Century. … “The actual mortality under the age of ten universally less than it was twenty-five years ago.” [The contents of the section are not visible in Internet]. 

(Dr. John Roberton, Observations on the Mortality and Physical Management of Children, 1827)

“The very great diminution of the mortality of infants in England is one of the most remarkable phenomena of modern times”

(T. R. Edmonds, Mortality of Infants in England, The Lancet, Vol. 1, 1835-36, p. 690)

“The effect of those better habits has been the prolongation of the average period of life among the working classes?” “Yes; cleanliness, their better nursing, and their better feeding of their children, better training in every particular, have produced this effect.”

“There are more children reared than there used to be?” “To a very great extent. From the best inquiries I have been able to make of everybody likely to posess information, and especially some connected with Life Insurance Offices, I have the most satisfactory assurance that more children are reared, and the term of life is prolonged very considerably. I mean that this is so independently of the extermination to a great extent of the small-pox and the autumnal fever.”

(Mr. Francis Place, political and educational reformer, Evidence to the Select Committee on Education in England and Wales, 1835, p. 74)

Mr. Porter gives us a comparison between 1813, 1818-1824, and 1830, of the proportions of ages at death; we see that the percentage of “From Birth to 10 Ten Years old” practically does not change.

Age at which the Deaths
have occurred
1813 
Per Cent
1818-1824
(average)
Per Cent
1830 
Per Cent
    
From Birth to 10 Years old39.7539.6038.56
     “     11   “   20     “5.876.336.63
     “     21   “   30     “7.477.098.06
     “     31   “   40     “6.776.696.77
     “     41   “   50     “6.516.616.42
     “     51   “   60     “7.467.147.35
     “     61   “   70     “9.759.449.27
     “     71   “   80     “10.3410.2510.55
     “     81   “   90     “5.375.575.74
     “     91   “   100   “0.670.650.04
Above 1000.040.030.02

(Porter, 1836, Vol. 1, Population, p. 30)

To extend this to 1840, we can take the report of Comparative Mortality from the 1841 Census, which gives the “under 5 years” for the average 1813-1830 at 34.5 percent and for the average 1831-1840 at 35.4; for “5 to 9 years” the figures are 4.2 and 4.9 (Parish Register Abstract, England and Wales, 1841, Preface, p. xxi).

The quantitative investigation that we have to carry out, is to see if the percentage figures for infant mortality (0-11 months) and for child mortality (12-59 months) increase during the period 1800-1860. We do not have data from the same administrative sources, or with the same quality, for the whole period. For the births and deaths, from 1801 to 1831, we have collections of “Parish Registers”; from 1837 to 1860, we have the birth and death forms as organized by the Registrar-General in the terms of the Marriage and Registration Act. The incoming data for 1801 to 1831 are not complete, particularly because they do not include births and deaths of children who died before they were baptized. The data for years from 1837, are absolutely reliable.

In the following sub-chapter on “Life Expectancy”, we will see that it is possible to demonstrate a continuity (adjusting the earlier figures with + 18 %) from the numbers up to 1831, with those starting from 1837, and that the birth rates and death rates do not change in an important amount in the period 1801 to 1860.

Here we have to go through the same processes as for the birth and death rates, but for the percentages of infant mortality and child mortality. First we shall inspect some data from the period of 1801-1831, then we shall attempt to construct a “bridge” between the earlier and later series, and then we shall copy figures from the Registrar-General’s Annual Reports, and show that these do not have increases during the period 1837-1860. 

There is only one source which gives us numbers as to infant and child mortality for the years before 1837. It comes from a government compilation of information from the year 1834. The original pages give the number of persons “buried and registered” by each year of age, and for every calendar year from 1813 to 1830, but with only the total for England and Wales. Thus we can copy figures of the deaths at age “Under 1 Year”, “1 Year”, etc.

 BirthsDeathsUnder
1 Year
1 Year2 Years3 Years4 YearsTotal under
5 Years
         
1813314.4186.436.211.97.44.73.363.5
1814318.9206.439.112.67.94.93.567.7
1815314.9197.440.312.37.24.93.368.0
1816330.2205.940.312.97.34.53.368.3
1817331.6199.339.014.07.94.73.268.8
1818-
1824 av.
378.4221.342.714.78.55.13.674.6
1825375.0255.049.116.69.55.43.884.4
1826380.4268.249.116.99.95.84.085.7
1827374.2251.946.316.39.25.73.981.4
1828392.4255.349.617.09.55.73.985.7
1829380.2264.246.516.69.66.14.483.2
1830382.1254.043.816.39.25.64.179.0

(figures in thousands of persons)

(Tables of the Revenue, Population, Commerce &c. of the United Kingdom, 1834, Part 3; Table 400 – An Account of the Ages of Males and Females Buried and Registered in England and Wales in each Year, from 1813 to 1830, inclusive, p. 455)

We can convert this table to rates per birth, presented in per 1000:

 Under 
1 Year
1 Year2 Years3 Years4 YearsTotal
under 
5 Years
       
181311538231510201
181412240251610212
181512837231611216
181612239221410205
181711842241410208
1818-
1824 av.
11339221410197
182513144251410225
182612944261511226
182712343251510218
182812743241510219
182912244251612219
183011543241511206

(figures in per 1000 of births)

But the numbers of births and deaths from the system of collection of data of the years before 1837 (“Abstracts of Parish-Registers”) do not include all the births and deaths, as they do not have the children who died without being baptized, some reports from churches of the non-conformist Protestant are missing, and those persons who died abroad or at sea are not included. See the first pages of the next sub-chapter “Life Expectancy”, the letter of Mr. J. Finlayson, Actuary of the General Debt Office, February 2nd 1839, to the Registrar-General in the First Annual Report of the Registrar-General, pp. 82-86, and Porter, 1847, Population, p. 49.

Based on Mr. Finlayson’s calculations, we should a) divide the death rates by 1.18, as this is the proportion missing from the absolute numbers of births (denominator), b) add 10 percentage points to the totality of the death rates for the first five years, as this represents the children who died before being baptized (nearly all should be in the first 12 months of life).

This gives us: 

 Under 
1 Year
1 Year2 Years3 Years4 YearsTotal under 
5 Years
       
Average of the above table11941241511210
Adjust divide 1.181013421129177
Adjust add 100 p mil17844261613277

So that the real facts based on the original data were: infant mortality 178 / 1000, child mortality 99 / 1000, total 277 / 1000.

Mr. Porter, in a presentation to the Statistical Society of London in 1841, commented the basic figures of the Census taken in early 1841. One point that he showed was the proportions of deaths at different ages, as a comparison between 1838-1841 and 1813-1830, which appeared to show a worsening of the parameter of “deaths under five years”. But he said that this was against the general judgment that the per cent child mortality had decreased, and that the reason for the apparent increase was the under-registration before 1838.

“In the table given in the Appendix will be found the number of deaths registered at different ages during each of the three years ending 30th June, 1838, 1839, and 1840 as returned to the Registrar-General; the aggregate of these three years; the number of deaths at different ages recorded in the parish registers during the 18 years from 1813 to 1830, and the proportions of those deaths in each 10,000 that occurred at different ages.

From this table it would appear, that the proportional number of deaths under five years of age has been very materially greater during the three years ending June, 1840, than it was during the 18 years ending with 1830. This result is contrary to the general and probably well founded opinion that a larger proportion of infants are reared now than were reared in the earlier years of this century, though the general adoption of vaccination, and the spread of more rational treating the diseases of infancy. It is contrary also to the evidence afforded by the comparative ages of persons now living, as already has been sufficiently pointed out.

It is evident that the returns of deaths from the parish registers for the 18 years from 1813 to 1830 were very greatly deficient in the numbers registered. The population has increased since 1821 (about midway between 1813 and 1830) only 33 per cent. while the yearly burials as returned to the Registrar-General are 55 per cent. greater than those recorded in the 18 years. May we not conjecture that an unduly small proportion of infants were buried in consecrated grounds? If so, this would account for the discrepancy that has been noted, but we are not possessed of any data by which to certify the error.”

(Porter, An Examination of some Facts obtained at the recent Enumeration…,1841)

(Underline by this author)

Here following, a simplified presentation of these data, in another publication by Mr. Porter.

Proportions of Deaths in 10,000 at different Ages

 18381839184018411842Five Years 1838-
1842
Eighteen Years
1813-
1830
Under 5 years3,9113,9594,0563,8923,9623,9673,451
  5 to 10   “460476538520490505424
10 “ 15    “259272271265259268265
15 “ 20    “342354353351339347343
20 “ 30    “787796765780753772781
30 “ 40    “685677658658649660672
40 “ 50    “644629597605596611660
50 “ 60    “640630596622620619700
60 “ 70    “820806768812814802917
70 “ 80    “8588378298778818551,049
80 “ 90    “515437496531526511642
90 “ 100  “
100 & upwards
79777783888396

(Porter, 1847, Vol. 1, Population, p. 17)

We have comments in two books, which are general guides to Manchester and to Liverpool, which may not be in accordance with our ideas as to children’s deaths. It appears that the idea was that the large proportion of children dying, did not enter into a judgement of the healthiness of the places; it was “acceptable”.

“Notwithstanding its low situation, Manchester is a healthy place, if we are to judge by the longevity of its inhabitants, and the bills of mortality, which exhibit a far greater number of births than burials.” (Aston, 1828, p. 3)

“…. render Liverpool one of the healthiest places in the kingdom, in proportion to the number of inhabitants.” (Kaye, 1833, p. 65)

“If there be no error in the calculation, or inaccuracy in the bills of mortality, Liverpool with its environs, is amongst the most healthy and salubrious spots in the country.” (Kaye, 1833, p. 70)

The only town, for which we have figures of child deaths from 1800 to 1840, is Liverpool; the yearly Bills of Mortality do include “age at death”.

Bills of Mortality, Liverpool (parish only)

Year PersonsBirthsBurialsDied under 
2 years
Died between 
2 and 5 Years
Per 1000 Per 1000 
1802 78,0003,1232,480837344268110
1811 92,0004,1833,07898727823666
1812 94,0003,8892,54679725420465
1813 96,0003,5352,53490830425686
1814 98,0003,8512,67772229117269
1815 100,0004,0683,2981,210426297103
1816 103,0004,1533,03395934123182
1817 106,0004,3153,3721,11736525984
1818 109,0004,4323,6521,136446256100
1819 112,0004,5483,7281,23643027295
1820 115,0004,7183,15799130321064
1821 119,0004,6293,4971,23241126689
1822 123,0004,7343,3791,16435924575
1823 127,0005,029     
1824 131,0005,3054,1321,43246727088
1825 135,0006,5274,1431,44842231064
1826 139,0006,5794,4851,59258924289
         
1837 201,0009,3886,8752,48382226487

(General Bills of Mortality, Churchwardens, Liverpool; The Stranger’s Guide to Liverpool, different years)

The challenge is to “knit together” the births/deaths from 1831 with those of 1837, as they may well have been collected with different premises.

We need to show that the 1837 data are consistent in their values from those of 1831, and we do have reasonable evidence:

  • We have found that the infant mortality rate and child mortality rate from the years up to 1831 are 178 / 1000 and 98 / 1000, giving a total of 277 / 1000; we shall see that the numbers for the first years from 1837 for the total of the country, are 150 / 1000 and 120 / 1000, giving a total of 270 / 1000. 
  • For Liverpool, we do have a direct connection in the year 1837: the parish registers give 264 / 1000 and 87 / 1000, giving a total of 351 / 1000; if we adjust with + 10 percentage points, we have 344 / 1000 and 107 / 1000, giving a total of 451 / 1000; the Registrar-General has 243 / 1000 and 213 / 1000, giving a total of 454 / 1000.
  • Mr. George Porter compares the yearly statistics of deaths from 1801 to 1831 from the Parish Registrars, with an annual average for 1831 to 1841 calculated by the Census Commissioners, and finds them to be practically equal; that is, the real facts did not change in this transition period.  

The numbers below for 1838 to 1870 are taken from the Annual Reports of the Registrar-General: the pages of Deaths at Different Ages, given per Registration District.

The numbers below for Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds, refer to the whole conurbation in each case. Particularly in the case of Manchester, we know that the better class of workers from 1825 moved to new housing areas in Hulme and Chorlton. It would not be correct to use only Manchester Township, and thus have birth/death data from only the poorer workers.

Total England and Wales

 Births DeathsUnder
1 Year
1 to 4 
Years
Per
1000
Per
1000
       
1838-
1839
480,000331,00072,30458,390151122
1839-
1840
501,000350,00076,32865,419152131
1840-
1841
504,000355,00075,50764,582150128 
1842517,000349,00078,70460,331152117
1843527,000346,00079,25358,370150111
1844540,000356,00080,71659,918149111
1845543,000349,00077,42658,151142107
1846572,000390,00093,644
Cholera
66,975163117
1847539,000423,00088,508
Cholera
69,863164130
1848563,000400,00086,43769,698153123
1849578,000440,00092,171
Cholera
68,839159119
1850593,000368,00086,30258,35914598
1851616,000395,000
96,753
65,197157105
1852624,000407,00098,66067,454158108
1853612,000421,000101,50163,577165103
1854634,000438,00099,299
Cholera
78,886157124
1855635,000425,00097,50368,240153107
1856657,000390,00094,40762,66014495
1857663,000419,000103,92870,056157105
1858655,000449,000103,83783,092158127
1859689,000441,000105,62977,715153112
1860684,000422,000100,98465,80014796
1861696,000435,000106,42874,701152107
1862712,000436,000101,17377,140142108
1863727,000473,000108,08993,921149129
1864740,000495,000112,93586,668153117
1865748,000491,000119,81080,035160107
1866754,000501,000120,29982,720159110
1867768,000471,000117,26171,33715292
1868786,000480,000122,07581,054155103
1869773,000494,000120,27483,288155107
1870792,000515,000126,63884,957160107

This result was unexpected, it shows that the average over the different regions of the country for deaths under 12 months was in a small range from 145 to 158 / 1000 (leaving out years with epidemic illnesses). This can only be explained if we suppose that these deaths were not in a function of the financial situation of the family nor of the work situation (industrialization); rather they were caused by the difficulty of the mothers to look after their babies, which remained unchanged through these years.  

 Equally the average for 1 to 4 years was in the range from 110 to 130 / 1000.

Manchester, Salford, Chorlton

 BirthsBurialsUnder
1 Year
1 to 4 
Years
Per
1000
Per 
1000
       
1838-
1839 (+)
10,7009,2762,0452,214191207
1839-
1840 (+)
10,1928,6672,1162,442207240
184114,05110,3782,6512,546188181
184213,85710,7483,0292,566218185
184314,10911,057N/AN/A  
184415,19410,470N/AN/A  
184515,80210,8982,9442,470186156
184616,75814,095
Typhus
4,2253,508252209
184715,48215,114
Typhus
3,4133,441222222
184814,94913,8413,2813,585219240
184916,68614,4263,6312,876217172
185014,40311,3833,3642,463233171
185117,57011,8553,4182,173194123
185214,26813,828
Epidemic
diarrhea
4,1443,289290230
185318,64413,8213,8042,982204160
185418,86213,9533,8073,335202177
185518,50813,8033,8283,150206170
185617,35712,3563,4142,648197152
185718,69713,6433,8762,829207151
185817,39814,9473,6063,972207228
185919,09313,1363,4392,693180141
186018,44212,9933,2412,390176129
186119,92313,8583,6403,035183152
186220,12214,1873,4293,514170174
186320,16515,7853,7274,242
Scarlatina
184210
186419,76815,1003,5203,208178162
186520,27517,0414,3223,448213170
186620,70217,215
Cholera
4,2523,175205153
186721,45317,016 4,3663,696
Scarlatina
204172
186822,29817,874 4,5494,070
Scarlatina
204182
186921,83516,3634,1653,269191149
187022,48016,2264,4612,881198128

(+) Only Manchester plus Salford

Liverpool and West Derby

 BirthsBurialsUnder 1 Year1 to 4
Years
Per
1000
Per
1000
       
1838-18399,6838,4762,0452,214211228
1839-18409,9259,9902,3762,927239294
184110,8059,7582,4492,528226234
184212,4289,7852,5462,631205212
184312,7569,767N/AN/A  
184413,05710,200N/AN/A  
184514,2739,9292,6072,407182168
184615,44013,537
Typhus
3,7513,563243230
184715,46921,570
Typhus
3,6284,048234261
184815,45613,1632,5453,286164212
184914,23718,700
Cholera
3,4583,960242278
185014,44110,8222,8062,621194181
185114,81512,5503,1073,217210217
185213,67612,067
Epidemic
Diarrhea
3,2823,167240231
185314,33311,8522,9852,622208182
185415,66614,797
Cholera
3,5393,952226252
185515,99413,271
Cholera
3,2363,276202204
185616,53912,3633,1923,114192188
185716,79013,1383,6183,471215207
185816,73414,7813,6053,489215208
185916,68212,7183,2592,850195171
186016,24613,2062,8962,377178146
186116,98913,9643,4593,455203203
186219,22214,7473,4133,867178201
186318,43016,5363,7703,994
Scarlatina
204216
186421,02918,5624,5453,648216173
186521,86918,8954,5043,630206166
186621,58522,250
Cholera
4,8925,341226244
186722,36616,2604,1353,499184156
186822,19216,7854,5213,573203161
186921,48116,6524,0663,673189171
187022,05218,3864,6364,150210189

The numbers of infant and child deaths below 5 years, shown here for 1838 to 1842, are somewhat higher than the figures for 1830 to 1837 shown above from the Bills of Mortality. The explanation is that the earlier figures do not include the babies who died before being baptised, and were not registered; the necessary adjustment was estimated at about 18 %.

Leeds, town and out-townships

 BirthsBurialsUnder
1 Year
1 to 4
Years
Per
1000
Per
1000
       
1838-
1839
6,1754,6901,1241,351182219
1839-
1840
6,6644,2031,0291,006154151
18416,6964,3611,125917168137
18426,3764,6121,2541,055197165
18436,1264,335N/AN/A  
18446,5844,124N/AN/A  
18456,6534,2391,0711,032161155
18466,8824,5291,376958199139
1847 (*)6,3255,693
Typhus
1,3431,404212222
18486,7604,8601,3081,100193162
18496,6127,274
Cholera
1,3871,221209184
18506,9364,5301,277742184107
18517,2325,4771,5111,126214156
18528,0725,9501,6561,471205182
18537,6865,0091,450783189101
18548,0115,5441,8311,062228132
18558,1145,5941,3431,168165144
18567,0494,9241,492867211123
18578,2085,3601,5281,035186126
18588,0885,7601,5961,287197159
18598,3665,4011,4831,106177132
18608,7046,0081,6571,409190161
18618,7336,2171,5691,035180119
18629,1385,8821,6101,328176145
18639,3507,0521,8731,697
Scarlatina
200181
18649,7026,5951,8131,377187142
186510,4187,3142,1171,613203154
186610,6477,7572,2661,556213146
186710,9816,5712,0531,097187100
186810,8397,1102,2041,474203136
186910,7747,3092,1341,289198120
187011,1347,7502,3501,578211141

In the Manchester, Liverpool, and Leeds conurbations, we do not see any particular movement upwards or downwards (leaving out years of epidemic illnesses), which might reflect the worsening of the housing and sanitary situations. 

The figures of infant mortality in England as an average were much lower than in other countries during the 19th century. The figures for Manchester and Liverpool, i.e. the worst cases in England, were about 210 in 1840, and decreased to about 175 in 1900. This means that the average in Germany was higher than Manchester and Liverpool throughout the nineteenth century. The data shown for each country are averages of rural and urban areas; since industrialization did not start until 1830 on the European mainland, we can suppose that the figures correspond in a large proportion to agricultural communities and small towns. Thus the high figures (from our point of view) from industrial towns in England, are lower than those from agricultural areas in all the other countries. 

(Rate of Infant Mortality in Germany in international Comparison, 1825-1900, five-year moving averages:

                        Austria                                   Prussia (frontiers 1866)          Italy

                        Germany                                Netherlands                            France

                        England                                  Sweden                                   Norway)

(Gehrmann, 2011, Graph 3, p. 819)

We have data for each county from 1841:

(Registrar-General, Annual Report of Marriages, Births and Deaths, 1841, p. 18)

Clearly the industrial counties had a higher rate of infant mortality than the agricultural counties (data referring to 1845-54):

(Newman, 1902, p. 23)

A large part of the high figure for industrial towns was due to the impossibility of the working mothers to care for their children, or to give them milk or enough other food. The causes given in the death certificates, or in general information from doctors, were “diarrhea, convulsions, atrophy, measles”, but as Dr. Farr comments, these illnesses were “inseparable from bad nursing and feeding”.

The employment of women in industrial work, and particularly in the textile factories, had a number of bad effects on the care of their small children:

  • The women, who worked ten hours a day in the factories, in general in a standing position, left their work only 15 days before the birth, and took it up again about 30 days after the birth; this obviously was a great stress on the body of the woman, and of the baby;
  • As the women worked 10 days a day, they were only a few hours in the house, where they could look after the baby, and give it breast milk;
  • The little children were often given to small daughters of the mother, or to minders, to look after the children;
  • The food given to the babies was of bad quality;
  • A number of small children were given calming liquids with an opiate base (“Godfrey’s Cordial” was the favourite), which in some cases caused the death of the child;
  • The mothers often did not know how to look after children, or indeed how to do household work, as their own mothers – who had passed through these experiences – were not able to give them advice.  

“The great mortality among children under 2 years of age is not directly chargeable to the factory system. The mortality between 1 and 2 is greater in Birmingham than in Manchester, for those are the two places especially contrasted. To what cause, therefore, may it be attributed? To no one in particular. The manners and habits of the people have much to do with it. That some localities are less healthy than others there can be no doubt. The most plausible reason which I can find is, not that the youths die in factories, but that the very young children are, under the existing system, not sufficiently taken care of by the mothers – both as regards themselves during gestation, and their offspring during childbirth. The women, during pregnancy, continue as long as possible at their work, and after child-birth return to it sooner than they ought, leaving their infants to the care of ill-paid and unsuitable persons. Nor ought we to omit, that soothing drugs, such as the well-known nostrum, Godfrey’s Cordial, are often had recourse to, with a view to ease the pains and to quiet the restlessness of infants; and it is perhaps to this improper use of narcotics that the frequent deaths from convulsions may be attributed. However desirable it may be, on other grounds, to regulate the labour of youths in factories, it is still more expedient, that mothers should not, if possible, be abstracted from attention to their helpless infants, particularly during the periods of lactation and teething.”

(Johns, 1840, pp. 195-6)

“Factory women soon return to labour after their confinement. The longest time mentioned as the average period of the absence from work in consequence of child-bearing was five or six weeks; many women among the highest class of operatives in Birmingham acknowledged to having generally returned to their work at the expiration of a month (*). And it was stated that the factory women even sometimes return to work as early as eight or ten days or a fortnight after confinement. The mother’s health suffers in consequence of this early return to labour, especially if, as is often the case, it is carried on in a standing position; and the influence on the health and mortality of children is most baneful … Mothers employed in factories are, save during the dinner hours, absent from home all day long, and the care of their infants is entrusted either to young children, to hired nurse-girls, sometimes not more than eight or ten years of age, or perhaps more commonly to elderly women, who eke out a livelihood by taking infants to nurse. Young girls, aged seven or eight years, are frequently removed from school for the purpose of taking charge of younger children while the mother is absent at work, and are sometimes said to return, on the death of the child, evidently rather pleased that the event has released them from their toil …. Pap, made of bread and water, and sweetened with sugar or treacle, is the sort of nourishment usually given during the mother’s absence, even to infants of a very tender age: and in several instances little children not more than six or seven years old were seen preparing and feeding babies with this food, which in such cases consisted only of lumps of bread floating in sweetened water …. Illness is the natural consequence of this unnatural mode of feeding infants ….. Children who are healthy at birth rapidly dwindle under the system of mismanagement, fall into bad health, and become uneasy, restless, and fractious. To remedy the illness caused by mismanagement various domestic medicines are administered, more particularly some kind of opiate such as Godfrey’s cordial or laudanum. Wine, gin, peppermint, and other stimulants are often given, for the purpose, it is alleged, of relieving flatulence, the actual effect being, however, rather to stupefy the child. The quantity of opiates sold for the purpose of being administered to infants in some of the manufacturing towns is very large …   Indeed, there seems to be no doubt that the habitual administering of opiates to infants must be included among the causes of a high infantile mortality in certain manufacturing towns, not only on account of an overdose being given, but also because infants kept in a state of continued narcotism will be thereby rendered disinclined for food and be but imperfectly nourished. …. Parents who thus entrust the management of their children so largely to strangers become more or less careless and indifferent about them, and as many of these children die, the mothers become familiarized with the fact, and speak of the deaths of their children with a degree of nonchalance rarely met with among women who devote themselves to the care of their offspring … Abundant proof of the large mortality among the children of female factory operatives was obtained during the enquiry. An operative of the better class in Birmingham reported that he collects money for the expenses attendant on the deaths of children among the workers in a factory where 150 women are employed, and that he believed that ten out of every twelve children born to the married women in this factory died within a few months after birth. Many married women were questioned, as opportunity served, in the several factories visited, regarding their families, the number of children they had borne, the number that survived, and the manner in which they were brought up. The evidence of those women tallied exactly with that of other persons …. It was frequently found that two-thirds or three-quarters of the children borne to those women had died in infancy.”

(Sir John Simon, Fourth Report of the Medical Officer of the Privy Council, 1861, pp. 187-196; quoted in Newman, 1907, pp. 95-96)    

(*) The wives in the better paid class of workers, in Birmingham, in 1861, could not interrupt their earnings for more than 6 weeks. This gives a different point of view as to the apparently good financial position of the families where both the father and the mother worked.

Dr. Newman shows in a number of pages that the infant mortality rate is highest in the manufacturing towns with the highest percentage of adult women working in the mills (see the whole chapter “The Occupation of Women” in his book). There was also an effect in some agricultural regions, when the adult women took up hard manual work in the fields; there was an identifiable increase in infant mortality in parts of East Riding, Cambridgeshire, and Norfolk, exactly due to this cause. The same differentiation between factory employment and rural employment was observed by the German health authorities in the later years of the nineteenth century. 

The effect of mothers’ employment in the mills is shown in a rather gruesome manner by the effects of the Lancashire Cotton Famine of 1862-65, in which the death rates for adults increased, but the death rates for children decreased, exactly because the mothers had time to look after their children in the house.

“…. At the crisis of the famine the mills in Lancashire were not working more than half time, and in December, 1862, 247,000 cotton operatives were out of employment, and 165,000 others only partially employed. Twenty-four per cent. of the total population in the affected districts were in receipt of charitable relief. The result of the privation existing was an increase in the general death rate, whereas the infant mortality declined. In Lancashire in 1861 the infant death rate was 184, but in 1862 it fell to 168, rising gradually again to 200 in 1866. In England and Wales in the same period it fell to 142 (in 1862), rising again to 160 in 1865-66. For Coventry, too, owing to trade depression, in 1861 there was a decline in infant mortality, which led the Registrar-General to remark that “the care of the mothers of Coventry has, it would seem, counteracted some of the effects of privation, so that neglect of their homes by mothers at work in factories is apparently more fatal than starvation.” A somewhat similar condition of things has been found to prevail at Macclesfield when the silk mills are closed or working part time. During the siege of Paris (1870-71) also it is alleged that while the general mortality was doubled, the infant mortality fell 40 per cent. The interpretation of these facts is believed to be that in times of trade depression the women stop at home, and tend and suckle their infants more than in times of prosperity.”

(Newman, 1907, p. 227)

Cotton Famine and mortality in Lancashire 1862. A few of the registrars witnessing a reduction of the mortality with the distress that prevailed in their districts at the same time have been tempted to speculate on the facts, and as those officers are in frequent communication with the labouring classes their opinions may be quoted. The registrar of Wigan states that more freedom to breathe the fresh air, inability to indulge in spirituous liquors, and better nursing of children, are believed to have improved the public health. The registrar of Little Bolton holds that the decrease of deaths is mainly due to a greater amount of domestic superintendence. The registrar of Hulme thinks that the even temperature of the weather and increased attention paid to young children have caused the decrease. The registrar of Knott Lanes (Ashton) attributes the result to absence of epidemics, mildness of the weather out-door exercise, maternal care; also to parish relief and charitable contributions, by means of which food has been obtained not sufficient for health but enough to mitigate distress and prevent hitherto an increase of mortality. The registrar of  Preston sub-district also refers to the good effect of fresh air, nursing, and mildness of the weather, and he adds: “In the weeks ending August 2nd, 9th, 16th, 23rd, and 30th, I registered 30, 25, 29, 24, and 37 deaths, but in the corresponding weeks in 1861 when work was more plentiful and people in better circumstances they were 50, 40, 50, 42, and 57. The peaceful and dignified conduct of the operatives entitles them to the warmest sympathy and support of all classes.” The registrar of Ancoats (Manchester) is convinced that the low rate of mortality in his sub-district was due to the coldness of the summer, in consequence of which diarrhea did not prevail.”

(Farr, 1885, p. 141)             

Thus we are fairly clear that the lack of maternal care was the most important factor in infantile mortality in the manufacturing towns. Possibly the next most important cause would be the extremely bad sanitation. But the question is, what was the proportion caused by lack of maternal care? We can inspect the per mille rates for a number of counties:

Infant Mortality in England and Wales

 1845-18541871-18801881-18901891-19001901-1905
      
Lancashire193172166179163
West Riding174166156164154
Staffordshire180159156172151
Derby153141134146136
London157158152160139
Kent132124116129119
Devon119125120131118
Oxfordshire14512811211398
Wiltshire12811010310291

(Newman, 1907, p. 21)

And then calculate the “manufacturing county penalty”, subtracting from the figure of each county, the figure for Wiltshire: 

 1845-18541871-18801881-18901891-19001901-1905
      
Lancashire  65  62  63  77  72
West Riding4656536263
Staffordshire5249536260
Derby2531334445
London2948495848
Kent414132728
Devon-915172927
Oxfordshire17189117
Wiltshire     

We see that the infant mortality decreases in practically all the counties; the “manufacturing county penalty” of, for example, Lancashire or the West Riding, increases a little, but this is due to the fact that Wiltshire improves by 10 points from 1881-1890 to 1901-1905.  This would appear to suggest that the different factors continue. But this is not the case. It is not the case that the sanitation problem continued with the same intensity up to 1905. 

The British Government, through the mechanism of the Public Works Loan Board, spent 62 million pounds from 1845 to 1876 on water supply and sewerage in the large towns of the country (Ian Webster, The Public Works Loan Board 1817-76 and the Financing of Public Infrastructure, Doctoral Thesis, Sheffield Hallam University, 2015, http://shura.shu.ac.uk/9939/1/Public_works_loan_board_1817-76.pdf. Chapter 5, Failure and then Success: Water Supply and Sewerage, 1848-76). This, as we see from the table above, did not have any effect on reducing the infant mortality.

But, more specifically, there was infrastructure investment in Lancashire. This was the Public Works (Manufacturing Districts Act) of 1864, which was passed in order to give work to the starving workers in Lancashire in the Cotton Famine of 1862-1865. Up to February 1865, 1,850,000 pounds were spent by the Government, with the following positive results:   

“…. The larger portion of the expenditure was on sewerage and street improvement works, including the formation, paving and flagging, channeling and kerb stones of streets, and also the widening, re-forming, and improvement of highways in the rural districts. The length of sewerage works thus undertaken, exclusive of house drainage, would be 534,445 yards, or about 304 miles. The area of paving and other works of street and highway improvement, undertaken in respect of the above-mentioned sum, was 3,708,393 square yards, or about 766 acres. The total length of the streets and highways was 485,560 yards, or nearly 276 miles. The cubical contents of the reservoirs, forming the storage of the water-works undertaken in respect of the sum of £ 414,629, were about 1,480,000,675 gallons; equal to about three-days flow of the river Thames in dry weather.

…….

One important result would be that the cottages [town and rural houses] of the working men throughout Lancashire would be very materially improved, in regard to the comfort and health of the occupants.”

[the quantities in the original text are expressed in words]

(Watts, 1866, pp. 328-329)

These improvements in sanitation also did not reduce the rates of infant mortality in Lancashire. We must therefore suppose that practically all the infant mortality in the manufacturing counties, above the “base level” of the agricultural counties, was caused by deficiencies in maternal care, due to the absence of the mothers in the factories.

This certainly is a “human cost” of the Industrial Revolution.

According to a table in the Registrar-General’s Report for 1871, the mortality of persons having the age of 0 to 5 years, did not change from the average of 1838-54 to the average of 1838-71.

Annual Mortality per cent of Males and Females in England and Wales

AgesMales
1838-54
(17 Years)
Males
1838-71
(34 Years)
Females
1838-54
(17 Years)
Females
1838-71
(34 Years)
     
All Ages2.332.332.172.15
     
  0 to   57.257.266.236.27
  5 to 100.920.870.910.85
10 to 150.520.490.540.50
15 to 250.820.780.850.80
25 to 351.000.991.061.01
35 to 451.281.301.271.23
45 to 551.851.851.591.59
55 to 653.183.202.822.80
65 to 756.696.716.005.89
75 to 8514.7614.7113.4413.43
85 to 9530.1430.5527.9227.95
95 & upwards44.0344.1143.2243.04

(Thirty Fourth Annual Report of the Registrar-General, 1871, p. vi)

(The number “7.25” at the top of the first column is a calculation for one year, and is to be understood  that 36.25 persons in the total of the age range “0 to 5” died.) 

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