Infant Mortality in 19th Century Britain

Project Author: 
Emily Smith
Fall 2014

In the 19th century, the population of Britain experienced a sudden increase in infant mortality rates.  The rise of industrial capitalism, as well as the subordination of women, created an unfortunate set of circumstances for parents living in the poorer areas of Britain.  When combined with prevalence of diseases such as Cholera and smallpox, in addition to unsuitable living conditions, keeping a child alive was a challenge for many lower class British families.

In response to this overwhelming pressure, mothers and fathers resorted to infanticide through the means of malnutrition, abortion, the use of baby farms, and more.  Upon recognizing this growing issue, as well as the living conditions and disease that contributed to it, government officials and medical experts created a series of health reports that led to some of the earliest pieces of public health legislation.   While infant mortality rates eventually declined, this was a significant socioeconomic problem that forever impacted the lives of 19th century British men and women across the country.


Smith, Emily. “Infant Mortality in 19th Century Britain A Working-Class Problem and a Public Health Solution." In Digital History. Columbia: University of Missouri, 2015.

Infant Mortality in 19th Century Britain