Population and change : A study of the spatial variations in population growth in north east Somerset and west Wiltshire, 1701-1800.
This dissertation attempts to show how the study of the variations
in demographic experience between different types of communities
can advance the understanding of the processes of English population
growth in the past, particularly during the period of rapid economic
change in the eighteenth century.
Attention is concentrated on an area of fifty-two parishes, centered
around the border of North East Somerset and West Wiltshire, which
contained communities involved in a variety of economic activities.
The principal objective is to demonstrate the relationships between
economic developments and demographic change and more especially to
emphasize the inter-relatedness of events in different communities,
each of which fits into a complex regional system.
The process of investigation is in three stages: first, aggregated
annual totals of baptisms, burials and marriages (taken from parish
registers and related documents) are used to analyse the general
chronology of population change in the area as a whole and explanations
for the acceleration and timing of growth are discussed. Secondly,
similarities in the experiences of the constituent communities are
studied and these provide the basis for the definition ~f groups of
parishes with common sets of attributes. Movements of people between
these groups are found to be an important element of regional population
change. And thirdly, more detailed analytical techniques are used to
investigate the processes of population change within individual
communities. This indicates significant spatial differences in the
fertility of populations and a study of the persistency of families identifies to what extent these differences arose because of spatial
variations in environmental and economic conditions or because of the
redistribution of population.
The overall conclusion is that population change in a particular place,
at a particular time cannot be fully explained without an understanding
of changes that took place in other parts of the region in earlier