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Vital Accounts
Quantifying Health and Population in Eighteenth-Century England and France


Part of Cambridge Studies in the History of Medicine

  • Date Published: February 2009
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9780521101233

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About the Authors
  • Why did Europeans begin to count births and deaths? How did they collect the numbers and what did they do with them? Through a compelling comparative analysis, Vital Accounts charts the work of the physicians, clergymen and government officials who crafted the sciences of political and medical arithmetic in England and France during the long eighteenth-century, before the emergence of statistics and regular government censuses. Andrea A. Rusnock presents a social history of quantification that highlights the development of numerical tables, influential and enduring scientific instruments designed to evaluate smallpox inoculation, to link weather and disease to compare infant and maternal mortality rates, to identify changes in disease patterns and to challenge prevailing views about the decline of European population. By focusing on the most important eighteenth century controversies over health and population, Rusnock shows how vital accounts - the numbers of births and deaths - became the measure of public health and welfare.

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    Product details

    • Date Published: February 2009
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9780521101233
    • length: 272 pages
    • dimensions: 229 x 152 x 15 mm
    • weight: 0.4kg
    • contains: 53 b/w illus.
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    1. A new science: political arithmetic
    Part I. Smallpox Inoculation and Medical Arithmetic:
    2. A measure of safety: English debates over inoculation in the 1720s
    3. The limits of calculation: French debates over inoculation in the 1760s
    4. Charitable calculations: English debates over the inoculation of the urban poor, 1750–1800
    Part II. Medical Arithmetic and Environmental Medicine:
    5. Medical meteorology: accounting for the weather and disease
    6. Interrogating death: disease, mortality and environment
    Part III. Political Arithmetic:
    7. Count, measure, compare: the depopulation debates

  • Author

    Andrea A. Rusnock, University of Rhode Island

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