Seasonality and early modern towns : the timing of baptisms, marriages and burials in England, 1560-1750, with particular reference to towns
The thesis examines the seasonality of baptisms, marriages and burials in early modern towns, and demonstrates that seasonality (which measures how the frequency of vital events varied through the year) is a useful method of examining aspects of social history. Chapter 1 looks at the background to the use of the demographic tool of seasonality and suggests how seasonality may be able to address some of the concerns of urban historians. Chapters 2 to 4 discuss the sources and methodology of the study, and the results are summarised in Chapter 5. The baptismal, burial and marriage seasonality patterns are described, and urban patterns are compared and contrasted with rural patterns. The results are discussed in Chapter 6, which seeks to explain the seasonality patterns, and the similarities and differences between urban and rural patterns, by looking at the context in which they arise, principally living conditions and the prevalence of diseases, and working and leisure patterns. Chapter 7 looks more closely at the transition between urban and rural seasonality patterns. Plague and intestinal disease, due to overcrowded and insanitary living conditions, created a divergent burial pattern in towns up to 1700. Otherwise, the urban and rural seasonality patterns of all events were basically similar in shape. The crucial distinction between urban and rural seasonality was in the much `flatter' patterns in towns, due largely to the more even and varied routines of urban occupations compared to farming, which was inherently seasonal in its labour demands. It is argued that population size was the significant factor in the development of urban seasonality, with small towns being transitional between the high seasonality of rural parishes and the low seasonality of larger towns.