Contagion in the capital: Exploring the impact of urbanisation and infectious disease risk on child health in nineteenth-century London, England

Sophie L. Newman*, Claire M. Hodson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Nineteenth-century London was notorious for overcrowding, poor housing, and heavy air pollution. With a large proportion of its population living in conditions of poverty, diseases flourished as people were increasingly drawn to the industrialising centres of England in search of employment opportunities. Utilising historical documentary and skeletal evidence, this paper explores the impact of increasing urbanisation on non-adult (those aged 0–17 years) health, particularly in relation to exposure to a multitude of infectious diseases in circulation during this time. Focusing on the community of St Bride’s Church, London, it highlights the greater susceptibility of infants and children to risk of severe morbidity and mortality from infectious diseases, particularly amongst the lower classes. When considered against the socio-political, cultural and economic milieu of nineteenth-century London, this reveals how the multi-faceted process of urbanisation exacerbated ill-health, increased susceptibility to deadly infectious pathogens, and ultimately further marginalised its poorest inhabitants.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)177-192
Number of pages16
JournalChildhood in the Past
Volume14
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 7 Sep 2021

Keywords

  • child
  • industrialisation
  • inequality
  • Infant
  • infectious disease
  • poverty
  • St Bride’s Church

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