Infant Mortality in Germany in the 19th Century

Rolf Gehrmann

Abstract


Developments in infant mortality in Germany have previously only been documented in a fragmentary fashion for the 19th century as a whole, and only on a small scale for the period prior to 1871. For the first time, this paper lays a solid statistical foundation by reprocessing the figures assembled by the German states of that time. The reconstructed national statistical series (from 1826 onwards) reveals a comparatively high infant mortality, with minor deviations until the turn of the 20th century. The impact of urbanisation and industrialisation is not denied, but an evaluation of the different regional patterns and trends leads to a new weighting. The living and working conditions in the countryside were thus highly determining. The relationship between fertility and infant mortality is assessed differently for the era of the sustained reduction in fertility than for the preceding period. All in all, the prevalent customs and attitudes are regarded as being vital to infants’ survival chances. We therefore need to look at attitudes among the educated public and the authorities. Efforts on the part of these groups to bring about change were particularly observed in the South West, where an awareness of the dramatic problem arose comparatively early. Further historic research at the regional level will be needed in order to achieve a final evaluation of these processes.

Keywords


Infant mortality; Germany; 19th century; Female labour; Urbanisation; Public intervention

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