The Population History of Britain and Ireland 1500–1750 by R. A. Houston

By R. A. Houston

A research of the inhabitants background of england and eire among the years 1500 and 1750, which makes a speciality of matters akin to nuptiality and fertility, mortality, migration, inhabitants, financial system and society.

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Before the 1610s) but among the cohort born in 161622 per cent remained celibate. Some explanations of changes in nuptiality are offered in Chapter 6. For the present, it is worth noting that changes in the proportions of women ever married did not occur at the same time as changes in age at first marriage for women, and that until the early eighteenth century changes in celibacy dominated the movement of fertility [Goldstone, 1986, 10-11; Weir, 1984; Schofield, 1985b]. Some tentative estimates of age at marriage and proportions never married in Scotland are available.

Among the few figures available, Macafee cites 2 per cent bastardy among anglican births at Loughgall, county Armagh, 1707-29. In the second half of the eighteenth century three catholic parish registers reveal illegitimacy of less than 3 per cent and pre-nuptial pregnancy of about 10 per cent [Connolly, 1979, 8, 18-19]. Much more work is needed but it may be that early and more general marriage thanks to easier economic conditions removed some of the reasons for illegitimacy. The Counter-Reformation may have brought about changes in sexual practices and other aspects of behaviour during the seventeenth century but it would be too simplistic to relate low illegitimacy solely to the influence of the catholic church.

A relatively light 'dependency burden' has important implications for the balance between population and resources, and thus for the standard of living of all age groups. The only semi-reliable estimate of age structure in contemporary Scotland is given in Webster's 1755 census. Even he was forced to make assumptions, from the clergy's returns which he used, about the age structure of those too young to be examined on the catechism [Mitchison, 1989, 71]. Webster's figures are likely to be far less precise than ones derived from back projection for England but they indicate perhaps a quarter of the population aged 10 years or less and just over two-fifths aged 20 or less.

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