Infectious diseases and epidemiologic Transition in victorian Britain? Definitely

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13 Scopus citations


SummaryFlurin Condrau and Michael Worboys recently denied that infectious diseases were part of the common experience of life and death in Victorian Britain and that epidemiological transition in this period was a 'chimera'. This response argues that their 'demolition' of these shibboleths is itself an apparition. A substantial body of literature on Victorian mortality demonstrates that Condrau and Worboys's call for analyses of causes of death disaggregated by place, age and sex is outdated. Disputing Condrau and Worboys's narrow definition of infection, evidence presented here indicates that infectious diseases probably represented about 40 per cent of all deaths in England and Wales in the 1850s. This proportion easily exceeded 50 per cent in towns and cities, places where the majority of the population lived. Attention is drawn to published works on health gap measures and health expectancies which show that the decline of infectious diseases made a substantial contribution to improved life chances over the Victorian era. This shift in mortality patterns is interpreted as an integral component of the epidemiological transition.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)595-606
Number of pages12
JournalSocial History of Medicine
Issue number3
StatePublished - Dec 2007


  • Abdel R. Omran
  • England and Wales
  • Epidemiological transition
  • Health gap measures
  • Health transition
  • Infectious diseases
  • Life expectancy
  • Life table decomposition
  • Victorian Britain

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • History


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