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Congenital defects in 18th and 19th century populations from rural and urban northeast England

In England, the 18th and 19th centuries marked an increase in urban living and the development of industrialisation. The movement of large numbers of individuals into newly created urban, industrial centres led to a decline in the standard of living conditions. In overcrowded towns, infectious disease easily spread amongst the improperly fed masses exposed to air and water pollution from nearby factories. To investigate the effects of these poor living conditions on populations in the post-medieval period, the prevalence of congenital defects, anomalies present at or before birth, were chosen for study in skeletal remains. Using an analysis of the prevalence of congenital defects, the hypothesis tested was that there should be a greater prevalence of congenital defects in people in urban centres due to the inferred poor state of health present there at the time compared to individuals from rural areas who may not have been as heavily exposed to unsanitary environmental conditions. This research focused on populations from four sites in Northeast England. The two urban sites were the Quaker burial ground, Coach Lane, North Shields (1711-1857 AD) and St Hilda’s, Coronation Street, South Shields (1816-1856 AD), both in Tyne and Wear. The two rural sites were St Michael and St Lawrence, Fewston (post-medieval-1896 AD) and St Martin, Wharram Percy (1540-1850 AD), both in North Yorkshire. Collected data showed that there was no statistical difference between prevalence rates at the urban and rural sites for individual or combined defects. This may indicate that the quality of the living conditions were similarly detrimental to health at both site types and raises the issue of how urban and rural can be better defined for the post-medieval period. Furthermore, these findings call into question the use of congenital defects as markers of overall health unless combined with “stress” indicator data and research into past living conditions.
Date January 2014
CreatorsTancock, Devon Lee Kase
PublisherDurham University
Source SetsEthos UK
Detected LanguageEnglish
TypeElectronic Thesis or Dissertation

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