Natural and Political Observations Made upon the Bills of Mortality (Graunt 1676)/Chapter 12

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Of the Country-Bills.


1.  WE have, for the present, done with our Observations upon the Accounts of Burials and Christenings in and about London; we shall next present the Accounts of both Burials, Christenings, and also of Weddings in the Country, having to that purpose inserted Tables of 90 years for a certain Parish in Hantshire[1], being a place neither famous for Longevity and Healthfulness, nor for the contrary. Upon which Tables we observe, |87|

1. That every Wedding, one with another, produces four Children, and consequently that that is the proportion of Children which any Marriageable Man or Woman may be presumed shall have. For, though a man may be Married more than once, yet, being once Married, he may die without any Issue at all.

2. That in this Parish there were born 15 Females for 16 Males, whereas in London there were 13 for 14, which shews, that London is somewhat more apt to produce Males than the Country. And it is possible, that in some other places there are more Females born than Males: which, upon this variation of proportion, I again recommend to the examination of the curious.

3. That in the said whole 90 years the Burials of the Males and Females were exactly equal, and that in several Decads they differed not 1100 part; That in one of the two Decads, wherein the difference was very notorious, there were Buried of Males 337, and of Females but 284, viz. 53 difference, and in the other there died contrariwise 338 Males, and 386 Females, differing 46.

4. There are also Decads, where the Birth of Males and Females differ very much, viz. about 60. |88|

5. That in the said 90 years there have been born more than buried in the said Parish (the which, both 90 years ago, and also now, consisted of about 2700 Souls) but 1059, viz. not 12 per Annum, one year with another.

6. That these 1059 have in all probability contributed to the increase of London; since, as was said even now, it neither appears by the Burials, Christenings, or by the built of new housing, that the said Parish is more populous now, than 90 years ago, by above two or 300 Souls. Now, if all other places send about ⅓ of their increase, viz. about one out of 900 of their Inhabitants Annually to London, and that there be 14 times as many People in England as there be in London (for which we have given some Reasons[2]) then London increases by such Advenæ every year above 6000: the which will make the Account of Burials to swell about 200 per Annum, and will answer the increases we observe. It is clear, that the said Parish is increased about 300, and it is probable that three or four hundred more went to London; and it is known, That about 400 went to New-England, the Caribe-Islands, and New-found-Land, within these last fourty years. |89|

7. According to the Medium of the said whole 90 years, there have been five Christenings for four Burials, although in some single Years and Decads there have been three to two, although sometimes (though more rarely) the Burials have exceeded the Births, as in the case of Epidemical Diseases.

8. Our former Observation[3], That healthful years are also the most fruitful, is much confirmed by our Country Accounts; for, 70 being our Standard for Births, and 58 for Burials, you shall find, that where fewer than 58 died, more than 70 were born. Having given you a few instances thereof, I shall remit you to the Tables for the general proof of this Assertion: Viz. Anno 1633, when 103 were born, there died but 29. Now, in none of the whole 90 years, more were born than 103, and but in one fewer than 29 died, viz. 28 Anno 1658. Again Anno 1568, when 93 were born, but 42 died. Anno 1584, when 90 were born, but 41 died. Anno 1650, when 86 were born, but 52 died. So that by how much more are born, by so much (as it were) the fewer die. For when 103 were born, but 29 died: but when but 86 were born, then 52 died.

On the other side, Anno 1638, when 156 died per Annum, which was the greatest year |90| of Mortality, then less than the meer Standard 70, viz. but 66, were born. Again Anno 1644, when 137 died, but 59 were born. Anno 1597, when 117 died, but 48 were born. And Anno 1583, when 87 died, but 59 were born.

A little Irregularity may be found herein, as that Anno 1612, when 116 died (viz. a number double to our Standard 58, yet) 87 (viz. 17 above the Standard 70) were born. And that when 89 died, 75 were born: but these differences are not so great, nor so often, as to evert our Rule, which, besides the Authority of these Accounts, is probable in it self.

9. Of all the said 90 years the year 1638 was the most Mortal; I therefore enquired, whether the Plague was then in that Parish, and having good satisfaction that it was not, (which I rather believe, because that the Plague was not then considerable at London) but that it was a Malignant Fever, raging so fiercely about Harvest, that there appeared scarce hands enough to take in the Corn: which argues, considering there were 2700 Parishioners, that seven might be sick for one that died: whereas of the Plague more die than recover. Lastly, these People lay longer sick than is usual in the Plague, nor was there any mention of Sores, Swellings, Blew-|91|Tokens, &c. among them. It follows, that the proportion between the greatest and the least Mortalities in the Country are far greater than at London: Forasmuch as the greatest 156 is above quintuple unto 28 the least, whereas in London (the Plague excepted, as here it hath been) the number of Burials upon other Accounts within no Decad of years hath been double, whereas in the Country it hath been quintuple, not only within the whole ninety years, but also within the same Decad: for Anno 1633 there died but 29, and Anno 1638 the above-mentioned number of 156. Moreover, as in London, in no Decad, the Burials of one year are double to those of another: so in the Country they are seldom not more than so; as by this Table appears[4].

greatest least
Decad number of Burials
1 66 34
2 87 39
3 117 38
4 53 30
5 116 51
6 89 50
7 156 35
8 137 46
9 80 28 |92|
Which shews, that the opener and freer Airs are most subject both to the good and bad Impressions, and that the Fumes, Steams and Stenches of London do so medicate and impregnate the Air about it, that it becomes capable of little more, as if the said Fumes rising out of London met with, opposed and justled backwards the Influences falling from above, or resisted the Incursion of the Country-Airs.

10. In the last Paragraph we said, that the Burials in the Country were sometime quintuple to one another, but of the Christenings we affirm, that within the same Decad they are seldom double, as appears by this Table, viz.[5].

greatest least
Decad number of Births
1 70 50
2 90 45
3 71 52
4 93 60
5 87 61
6 85 63
7 103 66
8 87 62
9 86 52 |93|

Now, although the disproportions of Births be not so great as that of Burials, yet these disproportions are far greater than at London: for let it be shewn in any of the London Bills, that within two years the Christenings have decreased ½ or increased double, as they did Anno 1584, when 90 were born, and Anno 1586, wherein were but 45: or to rise from 52, as Anno 1593, to 71, as in the next year 1594. Now these disproportions both in Births and Burials confirm what hath been before asserted[5], That Healthfulness and Fruitfulness go together, as they would not, were there not disproportions in both, although proportional.

11. By the Standard of Burials in this Parish I thought to have computed the number of Inhabitants in it, viz. by multiplying 58 by 4[6], which made the Product 232, the number of Families. Hereupon I wondred, that a Parish containing a large Market-Town, and 12 Miles compass, should have but 232 Houses; I then multiplyed 232 by 8, the Product whereof was 1856, thereby hoping to have had the number of the Inhabitants, as I had for London[7]: but when upon enquiry, I found there had been 2100 Communicants in that Parish, in the time of a Minister who forced too many into that Ordinance, and |94| that 1500 was the ordinary number of Communicants in all times; I found also, that forasmuch as there were near as many under 16 years old, as there are above[8], viz. Communicants, I concluded, that there must be about 2700 or 2800 Souls in that Parish: from whence it follows, that little more than one of 50 dies in the Country, whereas in London it seems manifest, that about one in 32 dies[9], over and above what dies of the Plague.

12. It follows therefore from hence, what I more faintly asserted in the former Chapter[10], that the Country is more healthful than the City; that is to say, although men die more regularly, and less per saltum in London, than in the Country, yet, upon the whole matter, there die fewer per rata; so as the Fumes, Steams, and Stenches above-mentioned, although they make the Air of London more equal, yet not more Healthful.

13. When I consider, That in the Country seventy are Born for fifty eight Buried, and that before the year 1600 the like happened in London, I considered, whether a City, as it becomes more populous, doth not, for that very cause, become more unhealthful: and inclined to believe, that London now is more unhealthful than heretofore; partly for that |95| it is more populous, but chiefly because I have heard, that sixty years ago few Sea-Coals were burnt in London, which are now universally used. For I have heard, that Newcastle is more unhealthful than other places and that many People cannot at all endure the smoak of London, not only for its unpleasantness, but for the suffocations which it causes[11].

14. Suppose, that Anno 1569 there were 2400 Souls in that Parish, and that they increased by the Births 70, exceeding the Burials 58, it will follow, that the said 2400 cannot double under 200. Now, if London be less healthful than the Country, as certainly it is, the Plague being reckoned in, it follows, that London must be doubling it self by generation in much above 200[12]: but if it hath increased from 2 to 5 in 54, as aforesaid, the same must be by reason of transplantation out of the Country. |96|


  1. Romsey in Hampshire, see p. 412, note 1.
  2. See p. 370.
  3. See pp. 368—9.
  4. The figures of these summaries are the same in all editions of the Observations, but the tables themselves give, in many instances, figures differing from the summaries. Thus, according to the tables, the greatest number of burials in decade four, the least number of burials in decades six and seven, and the least number of births in decades three and eight are erroneous. The discrepancies, however, are not large enough to invalidate the observation which Graunt makes upon the summaries.
  5. 5.0 5.1 See pp. 368—9, 390.
  6. Apparently on the assumption that in the country one dies out of four families each year. Graunt has calculated (p. 385) that in the city there die three out of eleven families.
  7. See p. 385.
  8. Sir Peter Pett also adopts this "currant rule of calculation" in his Happy future State of England, p. 118. Cf. Another Essay, note on "The Telling of Noses."
  9. This does not exactly agree with Graunt's estimate (p. 385) that 3 die in 11 families of 88 persons.
  10. Chap. vii.
  11. Evelyn's Fumifugium, with its plan for banishing "that hellish and dismal Cloud of Sea-Coale," was published in the previous year, 1661. See Petty's Treatise of Taxes, p. 41, note.
  12. This agrees but ill with Graunt's calculation that "in eight times eight years the whole People of the City shall double, without the access of Forreiners," p. 388.