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Title: Accidents and response : sudden violent death in early modern city, 1650-1750
Author: Spence, Craig G.
Awarding Body: University of London
Current Institution: Royal Holloway, University of London
Date of Award: 2013
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Between 1654 and 1735 as many as 15,529 Londoners suffered sudden violent deaths. This figure includes 3,135 who were murdered or committed suicide, however the majority of the fatalities (12,394) resulted from unexplained violent deaths or accidents. Accidents were therefore a regular feature of urban life during the early modem period. This study reviews the occurrence and circumstances of accidental death as recorded in the weekly London Bills of Mortality, parish burial registers and other related documents. It is clear that the most frequently occurring form of accidental death during this period was drowning, followed closely by fatal falls and incidents involving animals and vehicles. A wide range of other violent agencies resulted in sudden death, though in lesser numbers, including stabbing and shooting, fires and explosions, scalding and suffocation. Such fatalities were considered by contemporaries as disorderly deaths and as such a variety of actions were taken to counteract the disturbing effect such events might have. The formal mechanism of the coroner's inquest, supported by London's 'searchers', was paramount in explaining the how of such deaths whilst religious and intellectual endeavours were occasionally directed at the why. There is some evidence to suggest a move across the period from purely providential explanations to a more didactic imposition of human agency to prevent such events through the increasing exercise of authority and regulation. Sudden violent deaths caused emotional, psychological and social trauma to both individuals and communities and a range of contemporary documents shed light on responses and attitudes to the accident as an event. Especially important are the early newspapers of the eighteenth century which repeatedly print stories of accidents and their outcomes. Through a careful reading of such documents the present study delineates the position of the accident within early modem metropolitan mentalities.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available