What were the causes and consequences of the demographic change between 1750 and 1900?

Between 1750 and 1900 the population and its distribution changed dramatically, with the population rising by almost 700%. In this change, many people moved from rural areas to the towns, in search of jobs, this is one of the main demographic changes. In this essay I will be writing about the causes of this change and what the consequences were.

Health, medicines and laws

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A big part of the demographic change was due to the change in laws and taxes. With the removal of window tax, dwellings which had previously been dark, cold and damp, became brighter and this encouraged people to keep their homes cleaner. The damp, dirty homes of the past provided an ideal environment for the spread of disease. Soap prices became a lot lower, making it easier to afford for the average poverty stricken family. With their new, warm houses people were inclined to wash more regularly, this may have made it socially unacceptable to smell.

Previously, many common diseases, such as cholera, were spread when wastewater was allowed to contaminate drinking water. It became obvious that many diseases were spread through drinking contaminated water and something had to be done. This change in water quality was partially due to the fact that human faeces and urine were taken from the water system and given to farmers to be used as fertilisers. As previously raw sewage had been flowing in open drains through the street, disease had been free to spread. With the new closed drain system people did not come into direct contact with raw sewage, for this reason disease was controlled.

Improvement in drilling techniques led to the use of underground lakes to provide water for the people of London and other major cities. This water was available from pumps on the streets.

The price of coal reduced, with this many people were able to heat their houses, making them warmer and dryer.

The development of anesthetics and antiseptics made operations possible without disease. These factors combined led to an increase in the hygiene of the population as a whole. Edward Jenna created a vaccine against smallpox; this dramatically reduced the rate of death by smallpox.

This was all possible because the people were represented by a Member of Parliament, who fought for the public’s rights. All of this helped to increase the population.

Agricultural Revolution

The Agricultural revolution began with the introduction of the Enclosure Act. At this time, the traditional strip farming and common land methods of farming were abolished in favour of private enclosed fields. This resulted in many poorer farmers loosing their land because they couldn’t afford to own them. These farmers then had to move to the cities in search of jobs, thus forming the work force for the industrial revolution. As a result of enclosure there were many changes in farming methods. With these new methods of farming came increased productivity and profit. With the loss of smaller landowners, farm sizes increased and farming became a business. As the fields were privately owned, experimentation was possible. As fields were privately owned, crop rotation was possible. This involves crops being rotated around different areas; this was effective because certain crops use particular levels in the soil, and thus helping crops obtain the nutrients they require.

As these fields became enclosed, many farmers became involved in selective breeding. This involved only breeding from the best livestock; this resulted in individual animals producing more meat, wool or milk. As selective breeding was becoming more popular, the average weight of livestock increased. From seventeen fifty to nineteen hundred, the average weight of livestock doubled. With this selective breeding came more profit, as fewer animals were needed to produce a certain amount of meat. This was because there was more meat per animal. This is all relevant when talking about the demographic change as it moved many people to the cities in search for jobs, and made food readily available for the public. The change of transport in this period was of great significance to the agricultural revolution as it transported the food from rural to urban areas.

Industrial Revolution

The industrial revolution brought great advances in the production of goods in England, during this period England was said to be the “workshop of the world” as quoted.

This is relevant when talking about the demographic change as most of the work force came from rural areas. This was due to the fact that there were no jobs and a lack of money in rural areas, and many working opportunities were available in mills and factories throughout England. As jobs were of such a great demand the number of factories and mills was growing rapidly. With these new mills and factories came new housing for its workers. New legislation was often attempted to try to protect child factory workers.

In 1833 the Government passed a Factory Act to improve conditions for children working in factories. Young children were working very long hours in workplaces where conditions were often terrible. The act said that there were to be no child workers under the age of nine, children between 13-18 to work no more than 12 hours a day. The act continued to say that children are not to work at night, two hours schooling each day for children and that Employers must have a medical or age certificate for child workers.

This legislation act was vital for the children’s welfare, as before child death rates had been awfully high, as this graph shows:

The industrial revolution contributed a lot to the demographic change. This is clear to see, as worker’s health and safety improved at work, although many deaths had also been caused before the enforcement of new legislation to help protect people at work.

There are many other factors, which have contributed to this population boom. Although there is no clear reason why there was increased intimacy between couples during this period, it was partly the reason why the birth rate exceeded the death rate. The Infant mortality rate dramatically reduced when the smallpox vaccine was developed, and as many deaths were during this period of children’s lives it helped the population’s growth.


My research has shown that the main reason of the demographic change was due to the huge increase in health, hygiene and medicines. The advances in water hygiene and medicines brought the rates of infant mortality and death rates down.

The industrial revolution brought many people from rural to urban areas, and created many suburbs outside today’s major manufacturing cities. This change meant that our society changed from a mainly farming and rural based industry to an urbanised, manufacturing based country. This change brought the country much wealth and power.

The agricultural revolution helped the population boom, as it brought the country new methods of farming, helping us to make more efficient use of the land. With this new, efficient use of the land came more food and wealth, making food more accessible for the poorer families.

Whatever the circumstances, populations rising so rapidly must have come from one or more of the following factors:

A decline in the death rate, due to improved medical practices, changes in public health, or to changes of the diet of a population.

An increase in birth rate can be the result of marriages at an earlier age, or simply to a greater proportion of the female population having children.

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