Why did the Population of England Double during the Victorian Era

The 19th century saw a rapid development and change in lifestyle for the people of England, which was far swifter than that of previous centuries. During this period, England developed from a rural, agricultural country to an urban, industrialized one. By the end of the Victorian era in 1901, the population of Great Britain had risen to 32.5 million, which was almost triple of the population in 1801, which was 11 million. This rapid rise could be attributed to several factors such as mortality, migration, fertility, healthcare and marriage. In fact, apart from the composition, the population also changed in distribution. With Britain being the very first country to undergo the Agricultural and Industrial Revolutions, such a population increase was sustainable. Analyzing this expansion, we can conclude that this surge was a defining factor for the establishment of the basis of British society.

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The decline in mortality in the late 19th century could be directly linked to diseases caused by microorganisms. 37% of the mortality decline could be associated with tuberculosis, while typhoid and typhus accounted for 17% and 12% was attributed to cholera, dysentery, and diarrhea. With the Industrial Revolution leading to a rise in living standards, these diseases were fought against effectively and measures introduced by sanitary reformers played an important role. Sewerage works were improved, which resulted in better quality of drinking water, which was instrumental against water-borne diseases. The Victorians were fascinated by technology and progress, hence they felt that they could improve their society in the same way that they were making advances in technology. The increasing technological advancements led to the discovery of cures for many diseases, which were previously responsible for higher mortality rates. Importantly, many measures to prevent deaths in and during childbirth were introduced, which meant higher survival rates. Important social reforms were also developed, which included legislations on child labor, safety in mines and factories, public health, education (which was compulsory for all children up to the age of 10 by 1880). These reforms also saw to the end of slavery in the British Empire. Furthermore, there was no major epidemic or famine in Great Britain which would have led to catastrophic consequences for the general population. Consequently, the rapid growth which had begun around the mid-18th century continued throughout the 19th century. The death rate stabilized at around 22 per thousand by 1870. It was also around this time that public health campaigns which had started in the 1840s to provide towns with drainage and water supplies began to pay off.

A focal advancement during the Victorian time was the improvement of correspondence. The new railroads all permitted products, crude materials, and individuals to travel from one place to another, quickly encouraging exchange and industry. The financing of railroads turned into a significant forte of London’s financiers. The rail route framework prompted a redesign of society, with ‘railway time’ being the standard by which clocks were set all through Britain; the intricate railroad framework setting the standard for innovative advances and productivity. Steamships, for example, the SS Great Britain and SS Great Western made global travel progressively normal yet, in addition, propelled exchange, so that in Britain it was not simply the extravagance products of prior occasions that were brought into the nation yet basics and crude materials, for example, corn and cotton from the United States and meat and fleece from Australia. One increasingly significant advancement in correspondences was the Penny Black, the first postage stamp, which standardized postage to a flat price, regardless of the distance sent.

Migration was another very important factor that contributed to the increase in population. The rural periphery of western Ireland and Scottish Highlands saw massive emigration. The industrial and commercial hubs of central Scotland, the English North and Midlands, and South Wales, expanded in terms of both area and population, while the countryside witnessed a net loss of towns. The population distribution changed throughout the country. By 1901, the population of London exceeded that of Scotland, being more than double that of Wales. With medical technology more accessible in these commercial centers as compared to the rural areas, the death rates experienced a major decrease. Secondly, the immigrant population increased considerably. With the Industrial Revolution finding its mark, Great Britain was an attractive place to settle in. In addition, the outbreak of potato famine in Ireland also resulted in migration to England. In fact, this expansion of population was directly linked to the increasing progress of industrialization. A growing market had to be established for catering to the basic necessities of life, which would encourage entrepreneurs and businessmen to try new techniques for faster production

In general, fertility rates increased in every decade throughout the Victorian era. With living standards increased, it was biologically possible for a greater number of women to have children. Marriage rates also increased, possibly due to greater prosperity, permitting people to raise and sustain larger households. Moreover, measures for birth control were not adhered to. Not only did the general public lack the knowledge for the implementation of effective birth control, they also viewed these measures as unrespectable. The new methods of birth control had not become readily available to the masses till the second quarter of the 20th century. Parents did not attempt to restrict their fertility to deal with the responsibilities and liabilities of raising children. Since it was not common for women to be employed outside their homes, wage-earning was not seen or considered as an alternative to childbearing and childrearing.

In conclusion, the rapid surge in British population was due to a multitude of factors. Britain also escaped the “Malthusian Trap”, i.e. the tendency of the population growing exponentially up to a point of crisis, where the crisis such as a war, famine or epidemic would reduce the population to a more sustainable figure. This rise in population, however, did not lead to mass poverty, as in Ireland, because the British society was already very resourceful and technologically advanced, though with urbanization and the population growing at record rates, many large houses were turned into slum housing. It also led to exponential increase in crime rates. No doubt, this sudden increase formulated and changed the dynamics of Britain in its entirety, paving the way to a better life for the future generations.

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Why Did the Population of England Double During the Victorian Era. (2021, Oct 11). Retrieved February 5, 2023 , from

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