The long lasting, high incidence of infant deaths in Maastricht has puzzled scholars for many years. Whereas the majority of the Netherlands witnessed a vast decrease in infant mortality during the last decades of the nineteenth century, Limburg, and Maastricht in particular, had to endure continuing high rates or even ... (Show more)
The long lasting, high incidence of infant deaths in Maastricht has puzzled scholars for many years. Whereas the majority of the Netherlands witnessed a vast decrease in infant mortality during the last decades of the nineteenth century, Limburg, and Maastricht in particular, had to endure continuing high rates or even a nominal increase during those decades. The common assumption by doctors and scholars in the past, was that the lack of breastfeeding was to blame. This made infants much more susceptible to gastro-intestinal infectious diseases, especially during hot summers. More recent theories relate the Roman Catholic denomination of the southern provinces to their mothers not breastfeeding their children.
Eventually infant mortality rates of the southern provinces did decrease, although this happened a few decades later than in the north-western part of the Netherlands. What caused the infant mortality to drop after all these years? In this paper, individual level cause of death data will be analysed in order to gain a deeper understanding of this process and its causes. This is a rather unique opportunity, since these type of data are truly scarce. The major advantages of the data are: 1) the causes of death are not yet classified into incomprehensible old disease categories, and 2) the available information on the individual is much richer. In addition to information on the cause of death, we know the age and gender of the deceased, but also the place of death, the exact death date, religion, and the occupation (if applicable, and otherwise the occupation of the parents). This creates the possibility to perform a wide range of analyses such as on the timing in the year (seasonal influences), on the influence of social economic status, or on spatial effects, which could be combined with other data on certain hygienic or public health measures.
In this paper the emphasis will be on explaining the eventual decrease in infant mortality in Maastricht by looking into smaller groups (divided by age in terms of weeks and months, gender, and social economic status) and how different trends for those groups contributed to the overall decline. Investigating how and why infant mortality in Maastricht eventually did decrease, may also shed new light on the issue of why this decline came so late. (Show less)