1902 Encyclopedia > London > Health - Climate; Smoke and Fogs; Death Rate and Birth Rate; Marriage Rate

(Part 14)


Climate. Smoke and Fogs. Death Rate and Birth Rate. Marriage Rate.

Apart from the deleterious influence of smoke and defective sanitary arrangements, London must be regarded as exceptionally healthy. Although subject occasionally to rapid alternations of temperature, the climate is generally mild and according to the seasons equable, with an early spring and a long autumn. The following table (IX) gives a summary of Greenwich meteorology for thirty-two years, 1849-80:-


In 1306, when the population did not exceed 50,000, the citizens of London petitioned Edward I. to prohibit the use of sea coal, and he passed a law making the burning of it a capital offence. John Evelyn, in Fumifugium, written in 1661, complains that on account of the increase of coal smoke the gardens no longer bear fruit, and instances various cases in which the smoke had been prejudicial to health, but the influence of smoke in increasing fogs and intensifying their evils seems not to have been appreciable. The smoke-producing area has since then increased from about 3 square miles to over 100 square miles, and the average daily consumption of coals in domestic fireplaces has mounted to about 27,000 tons, or in winter probably to 40,000tons, which in certain states of the atmosphere produces a cloud of smoke resting for days over the central districts of the town, and shutting out the sun, even when it does not descend in foggy weather as a thick, impenetrable, and partly poisonous mass of darkness. During the fogs of 1879-80 asthma increased 220 per cent. and bronchitis 331 per cent, and in the week ending February 13, 1882, the death-rate, owing to the dense fogs, rose from 27.1 in the previous week to 35.3, diseases of the respiratory organs rising to 994, the corrected weekly average of this class of diseases being 430. The evil is mainly due to the smoke of domestic fireplaces.

The death-rate of London has steadily declined since the beginning of the century, when it was first exceeded by the birth-rate. A record of the births and deaths of London entitled "Bills of Mortality" was made by the parish clerks in the plague year of 1593, and from 1603 was continued even after the returns had begun to be published by the registrar-general. Though they only included the births of persons baptized according to the forms of the Church of England, and the deaths of persons buried in consecrated ground within the parishes included in the "Bills," and were in many cases very carelessly compiled, they place it beyond doubt that even in years when London was exempt from the plague the rate of mortality required a large immigration from the country to take the place of those who died in London. Previous to 1593 the great plague years were 1349, 1361, and 1369.

The following table (X.) shows the number of births and deaths in the great plague years of the seventeenth century, and the average annual number for every decade in the 18th century:-


The average mortality of London in 1881 was 21-6 per 1000, or 1.1 less than that of the twenty other large towns of England, while the rate for England was only 20.5 It is to be remembered that London contains a comparatively small proportion of working class population. Its sanitary condition is still very far in advance of that of Paris, where at present the death-rate is about 130 for 100 in London. The registrar-general calculates that according to the density of London its normal death-rate should be much lower than it is, but, besides the fact that mortality is influenced by other causes than sanitary arrangements, the extended area augments the evil results of density, and the lesser density in some districts cannot counterbalance the excessive crowding of others. Table XI. gives the annual rate of mortality per 1000 persons living for various periods, and Table XII. the number of births and of deaths from the principal zymotic diseases and from all causes: -



The mean marriage-rate for ten years 1870-79 was 19.2, and for 1880 it was 18.1 The percentage of children born out of wedlock in 1880 was 3.9, that for England being 4.8

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