It only began to increase in the second half of the nineteenth century, as this graph for England and Wales shows. So what reduced death rates was above all what's been called the sanitary revolution: You are not currently authenticated. The enormous number of monuments to the dead of the First World War that can be encountered all over Britain, and the continuing centrality of the First World War in national rituals of mourning, which still take place on the anniversary of the armistice that brought the war to an end, marked an attempt to come to terms with the death of young adult family members that had become an extreme rarity long before the war broke out.
No doubt that was why the accounts of children dying that run through the novels of Charles Dickens and his contemporaries now seemed so sentimental. Cholera occurred only intermittently, at intervals, spread above all by the movement of trade, people and armies during international crises such as the Polish rebellion of , the revolutions of , the Crimean War of , or the Austro-Prussian War of It reduced everyone to their basic physicality and then extinguished that as well. A lot of sensation fiction shuts down female power, or suggests the best response to female independence is control. The play between the two topoi undercuts the apparently paradoxical relationship between an act of generation and an act of closure. An undertaker's order book dating from records the following requirements for a particularly elaborate funeral: The big killers were measles, scarlet fever, whooping cough and diphtheria. Birth rates remained high until the last quarter of the nineteenth century; in Scotland live births per thousand population remained at around 35 until the s, before starting a long-term decline to their present rate of around Its smallness is emphasised. These new attitudes to death rendered people peculiarly unprepared for the mass slaughter of the First World War. In , death rates reached 6. The five years during which Queen Victoria mourned for Prince Albert were unusual, an expression above all of her own deep personal grief; indeed she only brought the mourning period to an end at the entreaties of her staff, who were getting depressed by it all. There was no opportunity for elevating deathbed scenes or fond farewells of the sort so often represented in Victorian literature. The decline of faith and the simplification or even disappearance of mourning rituals were sharply accelerated by the experience of mass death in wartime. Sensation novels often focus on the way that urban life can produce more radically surprising social encounters, as opposed to village life. So sewers were built regulations for the disposal of waste were introduced, and clean and effective water supply systems were constructed. The disease was unknown in Europe before the s; it was spread by the British conquest of northern India and moved along the trade routes this opened up, to Central Asia and Russia, reaching Moscow in September and then moving steadily westwards; called, not surprisingly, Asiatic Cholera, it reached Britain in October In consequence of what I said, the handle of the pump was removed on the following day. By this time it was widely recognized that it was a source of pollution and disease: The advent of photography even enabled mourners to pose with the dead laid out in her coffin before they set off for the burial 6 ; it even allowed families to pose with the deceased loved one, eyes opened and dressed as if she was alive 7. Families, even children, gathered round the deathbed to witness the dying person's transition to the life beyond. Where the early and mid-Victorians had made death a subject of earnest conversation, early twentieth-century English people now avoided it. On special state occasions such as the funeral of the Duke of Wellington in , huge crowds joined the procession or lined the streets 2 but even for relatively modest occasions a whole panoply of ritual was deployed, 3 including the supply of special mourning clothes, which were so much in demand that retailers even had special warehouses in which they sold them. In , Lady Knutsford confessed that she was the only person who knew that her friend Alice Dugdale was dying, apart from the dying woman herself, who had 'bound [her] over not to tell. The most elaborate monuments in Britain's graveyards inevitably come from the Victorian era, like these at the Undercliffe cemetery near Bradford 5.
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