Crisis Mortality in Eighteenth Century Eastern Sussex
To discuss the various outbreaks of epidemic disease within the area of Eastern Sussex and put these into the context of everyday life both rural and urban.
To examine the state of eighteenth century medical knowledge, with especial reference to the role of the midwife and the fact that she was not the old crone of popular imagination, the growth of medical facilities for the poor, the incidence of infanticide, the rapidly expanding patent medicine industry and the role that vaccination had to play in the containment of smallpox.
To analyse previously undescribed epidemics and in particular, those at Patcham in 1780, and at two military encampments, namely, Brighton Camp from 1794 to 1795, and Silverhill Camp, from 1798 to1800.
To examine the daily living conditions apertaining to these camps and place the diseases within this context.
To suggest reasons for the decline in major incidences of crisis mortality within the period under discussion and to ascertain what influence they had, if any, in the overall increase of population.
This thesis examines the incidence of epidemics, both major and minor, in Eastern Sussex between 1700 and 1799. Utilising a wide range of contemporary records it examines both the nature and response to epidemics in the locality during the period under examination. It traces, and analyses, the typology of epidemics and closely analyses the incidence of such. In particular the thesis examines a range of factors, in epidemiological and historical terms, contributing to the outbreak, control and relative decline in the instance of epidemics in Eastern Sussex.
The thesis examines rural and urban living standards and living conditions and their relationship to both endemic and epidemic diseases. It further examines both the development of medical knowledge and the changing structure and growth of the medical profession during the eighteenth century within the context of medical and social history, with special attention being paid to the role of the midwife, the growth of medical facilities for the poor and the incidence of infanticide. In addition, a comparison has been made between the survival rates of mothers and children in the lying-in hospitals in Britain and in France. The incidence of particular diseases, and factors affecting their spread or containment, is closely analysed through detailed examination of local documentation and reports.
Particular attention is paid to the conditions and causes of major epidemics in the military encampments at Brighton during the years 1794 and 1795 and at Silverhill from 1798 to 1800, and these have been reviewed within the context of daily camp life. The nature and impact of the epidemics is closely examined. These detailed case studies are complemented by an analysis of a hitherto unstudied epidemic at Patcham in 1780 and comparisons are drawn between the various instances to further analyse the factors influencing the outbreak and control of epidemics.
Close attention is paid to statistical evidence and to methodological problems of interpreting eighteenth century statistical material. An annual analysis of statistical returns by parish has been conducted in order to construct an historical and geographical “map“ of the incidence and nature of diseases and the resulting patterns of morbidity.
Finally, reasons for the decline in the number of major epidemics have been summarised and a new theory regarding the spread of less infectious disease along the turnpike road system has been suggested.