Conference Agenda

7A: Religious Differentials in Causes of Death, 1850-1940. Part II
Thursday, 09/Sept/2021:
1:30pm - 2:45pm

Session Chair: Prof. Isabelle Devos, Ghent University


Religious differentials in causes of death, 1850-1940. Part II

Chair(s): Devos, Isabelle (Ghent University, Belgium)

Historical analyses of the relationship between religious affiliation and demographic behavior have focused on Catholic, Protestant and Jewish differentials, with most studies showing the highest mortality for Catholics. Explanations for the differences have been wide-ranging, pointing to specific religious values, attitudes and/or life styles. Definitive answers remain elusive. In two sessions we present studies from the SHiP network. The network focuses on port cities with individual-level cause-of-death data for the period 1850-1950, supplemented by data for specific subpopulations such as hospital patients. Information on the causes of death of these population groups can clarify how religion affects health.


Presentations of the Symposium


Diseases and Divinity: Investigating Religious Differences in Health of Patients in the Binnengasthuis in Amsterdam, 1856-1896

Diepgrond, Nadeche, Riswick, Tim
Radboud University Nijmegen

Hospitals played a central role in the nineteenth century as these institutions were so-called gateways to death or places of healing. In this paper, we will make use of an unique combination of sources to investigate differences in religious affiliation of the patients in one of Amsterdam’s largest hospitals in the nineteenth century. Our study is based on the patient registers of the Binnengasthuis in Amsterdam, which record the demographic profile of the patients, the duration of their stay, information about their diseases, and if they died. There was no selection in admission based on religious affiliation. In total we are able to analyze 13.250 patients who were admitted to the hospital in the years 1856, 1876 and 1896. By using these patient registers we can ask whether certain conditions were more frequently treated in hospitals and whether the social, demographic and religious profile of those being admitted to the hospital differs. In addition, we are able to link the majority of patients who died to their specific cause of death by using the Amsterdam causes of death database. This enables us to ask questions about similarities and differences in causes of death patterns between religious groups admitted to the hospital. Furthermore, by studying three specific years, we are also able to investigate changes over time. Answering these questions is crucial to gain more understanding into the role played by religion in the history of European hospitals, and their patients, during the period known as the ‘medicalization’ of hospitals.


Religious differences in cause-specific infant mortality in northern Sweden, 1860-1900

Junkka, Johan, Hiltonen, Maria
Centre for Demographic and Ageing Research, Umeå University, Sweden

Infant mortality rates in Europe declined rapidly during the 19th century. However, not all religious groups benefited equally from this development. Religious affiliation has been shown to affect infant survival, and little is known why some religious groups had lower infant mortality than others. We investigate the relationship between religious affiliation and cause-specific infant mortality. We use longitudinal parish register data from northern Sweden covering the period 1860-1900, identifying affiliation to a free church or the state church on a family level. Data on death records are coded using the SHiP historical cause-of-death coding system which is based on the ICD-10 coding system. The SHiP system allows for systematic and comparative analyses of historical causes of death while retaining information from historical designations. Using cause-specific mortality, we can estimate and compare infant mortality risks due to different diseases and causes, such as water- and food-borne diseases. Thus, providing a better understanding of the mechanisms causing religious inequalities in infant mortality during the demographic transition.


Faith in a Time of Cholera in the Dutch Town of Woerden, 1866

Walhout, Evelien1, Beekink, Erik2
1Leiden University, 2Radboud University Nijmegen

In 1866, the Netherlands experienced its third major cholera epidemic. The impact of cholera in nineteenth-century Dutch towns is almost impossible to grasp: it appeared suddenly and then ravaged through the city streets leaving behind victims suffering from diarrhoea and dehydration while killing most of its victims. In many towns, the municipal authorities kept track of their casualties by meticulously registering when people fell ill, when they recovered or when they died. In the small town of Woerden (located near Utrecht), these cholera-registrations included name, age, address and occupation. For May-September 1866, when cholera hit Woerden, we do know exactly who fell victim to the epidemic. Additional data on household composition, marital status and religious denomination can be derived from the digitalized population registers. Finally, it is possible to study how the municipal and religious authorities acted during this crisis in term sof financial support: who was entitled to support and from which institution? The link between religion and health is not easy to explain and includes various aspects to consider: from specific teachings, values and practices that promote or discourage patterns of behaviour to the characteristics of religious groups (residential pattern, social class, isolation, support system). Did religion play a role in the survival and support of cholera patients in 1866 Woerden? Woerden covered a multitude of faiths and beliefs: circa 60% Protestants, 35% Roman-Catholics and 5% Jews.