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The Growth of a Nation: Child health and development in the Industrial Revolution in England, c. AD 1750-1850

NEWMAN, SOPHIE,LOUISE (2016) The Growth of a Nation: Child health and development in the Industrial Revolution in England, c. AD 1750-1850. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

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The Industrial Revolution of 18th-19th century England was a period of marked social, economic, and political change through which urban landscapes were irrevocably transformed. Increasing industrialisation brought with it issues of overcrowding, deteriorating sanitary conditions, and rising air pollution. Disease was rife, and life on the epidemic streets brought significant risks to child mortality and morbidity.

This study undertook a comprehensive analysis of health in urban children from the 18th-19th centuries. Six skeletal collections were selected from urban-based sites to attempt to broaden existing knowledge on the impact of industrialisation on child health from a range of geographical and social contexts. Growth parameters (long bone length, cortical thickness, and vertebral dimensions) and non-specific indicators of stress (dental enamel hypoplasia, metabolic disease, cribra orbitalia, and periosteal new bone formation) were selected to assess health status in both children and adults, to identify differing patterns in health stress and longevity.

No significant differences were identified between northern and southern-based sites, with social status being the primary determinant of child health. Lower status groups demonstrated the highest perinatal mortality rates, lowest growth values, some of the highest rates of pathology, and intrauterine onset of deficiency diseases, indicating a heightened exposure to poor maternal health and detrimental exogenous influences associated with poverty. However, the high status group from Chelsea Old Church, London, also showed significant deficiencies in growth values and a high rate of metabolic disease, suggestive of “fashionable” child-care practices. A potential association between the presence of non-specific indicators of stress and an earlier age-at-death was identified in adults, suggestive of a reduction in longevity associated with early life stress. Life in the city came with significant health risks for children, and the use of multiple growth parameters and indicators of stress proved an effective means to increase the osteobiographical understanding of past populations.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:Post-medieval; stress-indicators; social status; health stress; vertebral growth; vitamin D deficiency; palaeopathology; weaning; industrialisation
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Social Sciences and Health > Archaeology, Department of
Thesis Date:2016
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:25 Apr 2016 10:50

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