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Fertility, Class and Gender in Britain, 1860–1940


  • 15 b/w illus.
  • Page extent: 726 pages
  • Size: 228 x 152 mm
  • Weight: 1.23 kg

Library of Congress

  • Dewey number: 304.6/0941
  • Dewey version: 20
  • LC Classification: HB3583 .S97 1996
  • LC Subject headings:
    • Great Britain--Population--History--19th century
    • Great Britain--Population--History--20th century
    • Fertility, Human--Great Britain--History--19th century
    • Fertility, Human--Great Britain--History--20th century
    • Social classes--Great Britain--History--19th century

Library of Congress Record


 (ISBN-13: 9780521343435 | ISBN-10: 0521343437)

This book offers an original interpretation of the history of falling fertilities in Britain between 1860 and 1940. It integrates the approaches of the social sciences and of demographic, feminist, and labour history with intellectual, social, and political history. It exposes the conceptual and statistical inadequacies of the orthodox picture of a national, unitary class-differential fertility decline, and presents an entirely new analysis of the famous 1911 fertility census of England and Wales. Surprising and important findings emerge concerning the principal methods of birth control: births were spaced from early on in marriage; and sexual abstinence by married couples was a far more significant practice than previously imagined. The author presents a new general approach to the study of fertility change, raising central issues concerning the relationship between history and social science.

• Offers a general framework for the study of fertility change • Presents novel thesis that England and Wales represent an historical culture of sexual abstinence and that abstinence within marriage was the principal method of birth control before the Great War • Integrates formerly disparate approaches: demographic, labour, and feminist history alongside intellectual, medical, political, and administrative history


Introduction; Part I. Historiographical Introduction: A Genealogy of Approaches: 1. The construction and the study of the fertility decline in Britain: social science and history; Part II. The Professional Model of Social Classes: An Intellectual History: 2. Social classification of occupations and the GRO in the nineteenth century; 3. Social classification and nineteenth-century naturalistic social science; 4. The emergence of a social explanation of class inequalities among environmentalists, 1901–1904; 5. The emergence of the professional model as the official system of social classification, 1905–1928; Part III. A New Analysis of the 1911 Census Occupational Fertility Data: 6. A test of the coherence of the professional model of class-differential fertility decline; 7. Multiple fertility declines in Britain: occupational variation in completed fertility and nuptiality; 8. How was fertility controlled? The spacing versus stopping debate and the culture of abstinence; Part IV. Conceptions and Refutations: 9. A general approach to fertility change and the history of falling fertilities in England and Wales; 10. Social class, communities, gender and nationalism in the study of fertility change; Appendices; Bibliography; Index.


'… required reading for anyone interested in the still unresolved debate over the nature and causes of the origins and process of the modern fertility transition.' English Historical Review

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