CCC Essay

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During early modern era, from 1650 onwards, there was a sustained growth in the population of Europe. Between 1660 and 1800, the population of Europe almost doubled, increasing from a level of 100 million in 1660 to 187 million by 1800. The sources which can inform us of this population increase include censuses, parish registers, and legal documents such as wills, amongst a number of other things. Although recently historians have focussed on areas such as birth rates, marriage rates, and the age of marriage as an explanation for this substantial demographic growth, this essay will focus on the falling death rates as a driving force behind the ever increasing European population during the early modern period. At the start of the period under question, the situation for the population was dire. Life expectancy was low, with the average male and female life expectancies amongst the privileged nobility being 28 and 34 years respectively, and with one fifth of English children dying within their first year of life. Famine was also prevalent, as well as diseases such as the plague and smallpox. However, throughout the early modern period, these hinderances on population growth began to be gradually removed, thus leading to an overall decline in death rates, which in turn facilitated a natural increase in the population of Europe. These factors included agricultural improvement, new foods from recently discovered lands such as the Americas, the disappearance of the plague, and medical advances. Therefore, these changes allowed the population to become much healthier, thus causing an increase in life expectancy, allowing other factors such as marriage rates and birth rates to further contribute to the population increase.
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... middle of paper ... were much lower than compared to what they were in previous centuries, causing overall demographic growth. A key example of this was the development of the smallpox vaccination by Edward Jenner in 1796. Prior to this, smallpox had been a big killer, with an estimated 400,000 Europeans dying from the disease each year in the eighteenth century, including five monarchs over the hundred years. Due to this being combined with the effects of other diseases, such as tuberculosis and typhoid, the rate at which the population could grow at was significantly limited. However, demographic growth was greatly benefitted when the smallpox vaccine came about in 1796. By using cowpox, Jenner’s vaccine made people immune to smallpox, thus causing a sharp decrease in mortality levels of the disease. When this was combined with the other medical advances of the early modern period.

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