Choices for town councillors in nineteenth-century Britain: investment in public heath and its impact on mortality
Elected town councillors in British industrial towns faced tremendous challenges and difficult choices in the course of fulfilling their responsibilities. A complementary method for understanding and analysing the response of local government to the problems of urban public health is available via an alternative route. Local taxation returns provide information on the spending records of all town councils in England and Wales from 1870 and are detailed in the information they provide about public health spending. The long-term trend of declining mortality under way in Britain from the eighteenth century stagnated during the phase of most intense industrialisation and urbanisation in the early nineteenth century. The significant role of economic factors in the decline of mortality is made clear by our analysis of the relationships between income and price trends and patterns of mortality. The column of figures shows the 'impact effect' on mortality of each of the factors listed on the left-hand side.