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Birth, Death, and Religious Faith in an English Dissenting Community

A Microhistory of Nailsworth and Hinterland, 1695–1837

Albion M. Urdank

This study lies at the intersection of three principal areas of social history: demography, religion, and quantitative methods. It is a microanalysis of an English population at the level of the Anglican parish, during the era of the evangelical revival, which includes, unusually, Protestant dissenters from the Established church, in this case Particular Baptists, who were moderate Calvinists. It goes a step beyond previous studies by giving Anglicans and Dissenters co-equal status in a comparative demographic analysis and by demonstrating how religious values informed procreative activity. It does so through a combination of advanced statistical methodologies and an innovative treatment of data collection forms as readable texts. The study concludes that the likelihood of another birth increased following a religious conversion experience, especially among both Anglican and Baptist wives following marriage. Mortality too had a less constraining effect on procreative activity which, in conformity with the English experience, was driven largely by fertility. « less more »
Lexington Books
Pages: 150Size: 6 1/4 x 9 1/4
978-1-4985-2352-3 • Hardback • December 2015 • $75.00 • (£49.95)
978-1-4985-2353-0 • eBook • December 2015 • $74.99 • (£49.95)
Albion M. Urdank is associate professor of modern British and European history at the University of California, Los Angeles.
Chapter 1: Introduction
Chapter 2: Religious enthusiasm and reproduction: a probabilistic connection
Chapter 3: Implicit narratives: textuality and emotion in demographic behavior
Chapter 4: Baptist fertility
Chapter 5: Anglican fertility
Chapter 6: Mortality
Appendix 1: Fecund fertility rates by timing of female Baptist conversion
Appendix 2: Spacing of Selected Birth Intervals (Baptist)
Appendix 3: Fecund fertility rates by Anglican and Baptist female conversion: Fecundity length
Appendix 4: Fecund fertility rates from combined Anglican and Baptist by female conversion
Appendix 5: Spacing of Selected birth intervals (Anglican)
Appendix 6: Infant and child morality and burial rates
Appendix 7: Age-specific adult burial rates 1695–1837: overall and by gender, tables A and B
Appendix 8: Age-specific adult burial 1695–1768 and 1769–1837: life-table analyses
For more than thirty years, Albion Urdank has been widely recognized as an expert on the historical and religious demography of Great Britain. His new book on the community of Nailsworth is both situated at the cutting edge of analysis and executed in a distinctly old-fashioned mode. Its advanced methods embrace state-of-the-art techniques for understanding quantitative data, while its evident scholarly rigor and historical care are testimony to the finest academic traditions. This work is not only a valuable resource for other researchers but also a durable achievement for its author.
Kevin J. Christiano, University of Notre Dame

Students of late twentieth and twenty-first century religion in the United States have drawn attention to the importance of demographic factors in assessing the vitality of religious denominations, but surprisingly little attention has been devoted to these influences in historical contexts. Albion Urdank has produced a marvelous study that contributes especially to our understanding of Baptists as nonconformists and the relationship of religious enthusiasm to family patterns—a great read for anyone interested in the social history of religion.
Robert Wuthnow, Princeton University

Albion Urdank's study of marriage and fertility in an eighteenth-century Gloucestershire wool-weaving village with strong evangelical leanings brings the quantitative analytic toolkit of historical demography to bear on a number of long-standing concerns of religious history. Employing the classic techniques of 'family reconstitution' but applied to both the Anglican and nonconforming households in Nailsworth, Urdank is able to extend the core findings of the Cambridge Group for the History of Population and Social Structure to an important religious subgroup previously excluded from serious demographic enquiry. Urdank's sensitivity to the narrative record of the family reconstitution methodology itself also adds a human face to the demographic analysis, revealing the emotional and spiritual lives of the families he studies. This will be an important addition to the literature on English demographic history of the long eighteenth century, offering one more explanation—evangelicalism—for the increase in fertility that was so critical to the expansion of the English population during the period of the Industrial Revolution.
Anne McCants, Massachusetts Institute of Technology