Britain's first demographic transition: an integrated geography

Lead Research Organisation: University of Cambridge
Department Name: Geography

Abstract

This project will present the first historic population geography of Great Britain during the late nineteenth century. This was a period of unprecedented demographic change, when both mortality and fertility started the dramatic secular declines of the first demographic transition. National trends are well established: mortality decline started in childhood and early adulthood, with infant mortality lagging behind, particularly in urban-industrial areas. The fall in fertility was led by the middle classes but quickly spread throughout society. Urban growth was fuelled by movement from the countryside to the city, but there was also considerable migration overseas, particularly from Scotland, although to some extent outmigration was offset by immigration. There was local and regional variation in these patterns, and a contrast between the demographic experiences of Scotland and of England and Wales. Marriage was later in Scotland but fertility within marriage higher, and the improvement in Scottish mortality was slower than that south of the border. However, while there has been research on local and regional patterns within each country, these have mainly been pursued separately, and it is therefore unclear whether there were real national differences or whether there were local demographic continuities across borders, and if so whether they followed economic, occupational, cultural or even linguistic lines. Understanding population processes involves a holistic appreciation of the interaction between the basic demographic components of fertility, mortality, nuptiality and migration, and how they come together, interacting with economic and cultural processes, to create a specific demographic system via the spread of people and ideas. This project is the first to consider a historical population geography of the whole of Great Britain across the first demographic transition, drawing together measures of nuptiality, fertility, mortality and migration for small geographic areas and unpacking how they interacted to produce the more readily available broad-brush national patterns for Scotland and for England and Wales.

We will build on our immensely successful project on the fertility of Victorian England and Wales, which used complete count census data for England and Wales to calculate more detailed fertility measures than ever previously possible for some 2000 small geographic areas and 8 social groups, allowing the investigation of intra-urban as well as urban-rural differences in fertility. The new measures allowed us to examine age patterns of fertility across the two countries for the first time. We were also able to calculate contextual variables from the census data which allowed us to undertake spatial analysis of the influences on fertility over time. As well as academic papers, our previous project presented summary data at a fine spatial resolution in an interactive online atlas, populationspast.org, a major new resource which is already being widely used as a teaching tool in both schools and universities.

In this new project we will calculate comparable measures of fertility and contextual variables using the full count census data for Scotland, 1851 to 1901 inclusive, to complement those for England and Wales. However, our new project will go considerably further and will integrate place-specific measures of mortality and migration, for both Scotland and for England and Wales. We will provide new age-specific data on fertility, mortality and migration for the whole of Great Britain using existing datasets, at a finer geographic level than has previously been possible, and will analyse these spatially and temporally to gain a panoramic understanding of the forces driving this crucial period of demographic and social change. We will expand populationspast.org to bring our new findings to a wide academic and non-academic audience and will provide the data for others to explore interactively.

Planned Impact

Our main beneficiaries include: secondary school teachers and their pupils; curriculum development bodies; university lecturers and students; local and family history societies; genealogy organisations (including media companies); archives; the 'general public'; and policy makers.

School teachers will benefit from targeted classroom resources (both off-the-shelf and adaptable) to enhance their teaching of how the demographic, socio-economic and cultural characteristics of places change and are shaped by shifting flows of people and resources. A direct link between teachers and academic research will enable teachers to connect research findings with classroom practice. School pupils will develop their geographical, mathematical and graphical skills through use of the choropleth maps and quantitative data provided by the website. They will gain a keener awareness of place at a variety of scales and see the connections between local, regional, and national history. They will also develop a deeper understanding of the causes and impact of changing demographic and socio-economic factors, and the relevance of a statistical and graphical approach to the understanding of patterns and trends in the past and present, and the spectrum of experiences across Great Britain. Curriculum development bodies will be provided with information to feed into, and resources to support, their curricula at particular school stages. Following consultation with a network of teachers (already established as part of our previous project), we will align resources to the curricula for Key Stages 3, 4 and 5 in England and Wales and Third/Fourth Level and Senior Phase in Scotland. The new project will expand the range of worksheets, and develop further ideas for new resources, which will be made available via an extended version of our existing interactive website, populationspast.org.

Our databases and GIS will benefit university teachers and students. Academics elsewhere are already producing GIS training material using the resources from our current project, to enhance the skills training of their undergraduates and postgraduates in GIS, statistics, and spatial reasoning, as well as their geographic and historical knowledge. The extended version of populationspast.org will form a tool which will support both teaching and independent learning.

The extended version of populationspast.org will allow local and family history societies, who have already shown considerable interest in the website, even more insight into the broad contexts for local research and the local contexts for individual level research, and those in Scotland will benefit for the first time. Local, national and international archives, and local studies libraries, will also benefit from the provision of contextual information, generating greater interest in their holdings and resources.

A wide spectrum of the 'general public' will benefit from the extension of populationspast.org: users will be able to visually explore the coincidences between socio-economic and demographic measures at a variety of spatial levels across Great Britain. This will provide an accessible way to understand the historical antecedents of current geographical and social differentials.

Policy makers interested in demographic issues at international, national or local levels will benefit from the proposed research. Understanding of the processes leading to fertility decline and improvement in child survival rests on relatively insecure foundations, even in developed countries, due to data limitations. Knowledge of the forces that create population dynamics is crucial to the understanding of ageing populations, issues related to pension provision, national accounting and human capital, and this study will offer the opportunity to re-examine and reinforce, or remodel the foundations of the theories which underlie many social and health policies, both at home and abroad.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description Cambridge Creative Encounters: Cambridge Very Shorts 2020: Victorian fertility decline
Amount £1,000 (GBP)
Organisation University of Cambridge 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 04/2020 
End 09/2020
 
Description Census taking over time - a project by schools and for schools
Amount £2,285 (GBP)
Organisation Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 02/2021 
End 04/2021
 
Description BBC interview 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Alice Reid was interviewed by a BBC journalist for an article on the persistence of geographical health differentials. The article quoted Prof. Reid and displayed maps from the PopulationsPast website. The article was published on the BBC website on 8th July 2021 where it reached 9th most read article.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
URL https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-57730353
 
Description BSPS presentation 2020 Jaadla 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Dr Hannaliis Jaadla gave a presentation at the online British Society for Population Studies Annual Conference with the title 'Continuity and change in spatial patterns in UK fertility: the case of London'. There was an online audience of 40-50 people.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
 
Description COnference presentation: IPC Reid (1) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Alice Reid gave a presentation to the International Population Conference (held online) entitled 'Fatal Places? A reanalysis of child mortality from the 1911 census of England and Wales'. About 30 people attended.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
 
Description Cambridge Reproduction Forum (Jaadla) 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Hannaliis Jaadla took part in the interactive online forum, Imaging Reproduction, in March 2021. About 80 people attended from a wide variety of institutions and backgrounds.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
 
Description Conference presentation: BSPS Garrett 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Eilidh Garrett presented a paper to the British Society for Population Studies Annual Conference (online) in September 2021, entitled 'Spinners, weavers and leaders in the first demographic transition: female textile workers and small family sizes, 1851-1901'. About 20 people attended.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
 
Description Conference presentation: BSPS Jaadla 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Hanna Jaadla made a presentation to the British Society for Population Studies annual conference (online) in September 2021, entitled 'Female migrants, motherhood, and labour force participation in Great Britain, 1881-1911, a comparative study'. About 25 people attended.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
 
Description Conference presentation: ESHD 2022 Garrett 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Eilidh Garrett gave a presentation at the European Society for Historical Demography conference in Madrid (attending remotely) in March 2022, entitled: 'Fertility outside marriage and its contribution to our understanding of Britain's first demographic transition, 1851-1901'. About 30 people attended.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2022
 
Description Conference presentation: ESHD 2022 Jaadla 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Hanna Jaadla made a presenation to the European Society for Historical Demography in Madrid, March 2022, entitled 'Migrant fertility in Great Britain, 1881-1911'. About 30 people attended.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2022
 
Description Conference presentation: ESHD 2022 Reid 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Alice Reid gave a presentation at the European Society for Historical Demography conference in Madrid, on the Geography of the British Fertility Decline, about 30 people attended, online and in person
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2022
 
Description Conference presentation: IPC Jaadla 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Hannaliis Jaadla gave a presentation to the International Population Conference (online) in December 2021, entitled 'Continuity and change in spatial patterns inthe UK fertility: the case of London'. About 30 people attended.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
 
Description Conference presentation: IPC Reid (2) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Alice Reid gave a presentation to the International Population Conference (held online) entitled: Prenuptial sexual activity and marital fertility during the first demographic transition in Britain. About 30 people attended.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
 
Description Conference presentation: SSHA Reid 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Alice Reid gave a presentation to the Social Science History Association (in the USA, but attended remotely), with the title: Fatal Places? A reanalysis of child mortality from the 1911 census of England and Wales. About 30 people attended.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
 
Description LPSS conference (Schurer & Garrett) 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Kevin Schurer organised 'The British Diaspora' LPSS (Local Population Studies Society) conference held virtually on 9/10/21.
Kevin Schurer and Eilidh Garrett presented a paper at the conference: '"You take the high road and I'll take the low road. Cross border migration in Great Britain, 1851-1901"
Approximate audience - 50 including 'delegates' from USA.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
 
Description Mind over chatter podcast 
Form Of Engagement Activity A broadcast e.g. TV/radio/film/podcast (other than news/press)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Alice Reid took part, as one of three experts, in a podcast: What is the future of reproduction?, part of the Mind Over Chatter podcast series run by the University of Cambridge. This was released on 16th April 2021.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
URL https://mind-over-chatter.captivate.fm/episode/what-is-the-future-of-reproduction
 
Description Podcasts co-created with schools 
Form Of Engagement Activity A broadcast e.g. TV/radio/film/podcast (other than news/press)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact We co-created 3 podcasts with year 8 students from two comprehensive schools in South Wales, and released them to coincide with the census of England and Wales 2021. They are available from the PopulationsPast.org website and the Geography Department, University of Cambridge YouTube channel. So far, together, they have been downloaded nearly 9000 times.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
URL https://www.populationspast.org/resources/
 
Description Press release re schools project 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Cambridge University put out a press release (13/05/2021) about our engaging with schools project.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
URL https://www.cam.ac.uk/research/news/year-8-students-work-with-cambridge-researchers-to-help-their-pe...
 
Description Radio appearance (Reid) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A broadcast e.g. TV/radio/film/podcast (other than news/press)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Alice Reid appeared on the TalkRADIO Darryl Morris show on 8th January 2022, 23:00-23:30. This was a 30 minute slot to talk about the newly released 1921 census.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2022
URL https://talkradio.co.uk/radio/listen-again/1641679200
 
Description School workshop (Cardiff) 2March2021 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact This was the first of a number of schools workshops organised as part of our AHRC/ESRC Engaging the Public with Census2021 award. We held an interactive workshop with a group of 14 year 8 students and 2 teachers from Radyr School in Cardiff to informa and engage them about the census, and teach them how to find out information themselves. They were highly engaged, asked lots of great questions and are looking forward to the follow up workshop in a couple of weeks. The teachers indicated that they would integrate our resources (eg www.populationspast.org) into future lessons.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
 
Description Schools workshops 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact We held two online workshops with a group of year 8 students in a South Wales comprehensive school in March and April 2021. In the first workshop we exploring census historic and contemporary census data, and in the second we co-created a podcast. 15 students attended, together with 2 teachers. The students were highly engaged and teachers reported a desire to do more workshops in the future.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
 
Description Seminar presentation CPC Alice Reid November 2020 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Alice Reid gave an online presentation about the new research project (how it is based on, but will do much more thanthe previous project) at the CPC (Centre for Population Change) Seminar series in Novembeer 2020, attended by around 60 people. Thre was much interest and following the talk she was approached regarding the possibility of collaborative research.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
 
Description Seminar presentation Oxford Leverhulme Centre for Demographic Studies Alice Reid May 2020 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Alice Reid was invited to give a presentation at the Leverhulme Centre for Demographic Studies, Oxford University. She gave this talk entitled 'If only this could be my last': a reconsideration of the British fertility transition' remotely, on 4th May 2020. It was attended by an audience of about 50 and a lively discussion ensued.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
 
Description conference presentation: BSPS Reid 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Alice Reid gavbe a presentation at the British Society for Population Studies annual conference, held online in Sept 2021, with the title 'Fatal Places? A reanalysis of child mortality from the 1911 census of England and Wales'. About 25 people attended.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021