The Census of Ireland For The Year 1851: Tables of Death

Pdf The Census of Ireland for the Year 1851, Part V, Table of Deaths Vol I, Containing the Report, Tables of Pestilences and Analysis of the Tables of Deaths, Dublin: Alexander Thom and Sons, 1856

The Census of Ireland for the Year 1851, Part V, Tables of Deaths Vol I describes in detail the history of famine and disease in Ireland from ancient times until the mid 19th century when Ireland was ravaged by the Great Irish Famine. In the mid to late 1840s and the early 1850s approximately one million Irish died of starvation and disease while approximately the same number fled Ireland for America and other parts of the world after the repeated failure of the potato crop.

This volume describes the history of epidemics, famines and pestilence by making reference to the most ancient Gaelic, Christian and medieval English sources. The most infamous medieval outbreak of plague was the Black Death when a mysterious disease believed to have been spread by rats was responsible for millions of deaths in the 14th century. The enormous loss of life caused huge social, political, military, economic and religious upheaval across the European continent. In Ireland the plague was attributed with the collapse of Norman power and the resurgence of the Gaelic system. Most people used religious and superstitious explanations for these catastrophes until the modern era.

The 1851 census describes factors such as location, living conditions, occupations, life expectancy and seasonal instances of death due to disease in mid 19th century Ireland. Among the Gaelic Irish Catholic poor, who relied on the potato, chronic hunger and death from starvation was common at the best of times. Child mortality was high and many people died in young adulthood while few lived into advanced old age. The middle classes and the rich were generally from the Anglo-Irish Protestant class. Many diseases were a mark of a person's social class. The wealthy, due to their rich diet and sedentary lifestyles, suffered from gout while those deemed at the time to have had low morals suffered from syphilis regardless of whether they were rich or poor.

All classes were vulnerable to outbreaks of wooping-cough, cholera, typhus, dysentary, influenza, small pox, measles and many other illnesses which were later pevented by vaccination. In Dublin and large towns the contents of chamber pots were thrown onto the streets and drinking water and food were usually contaminated. In both urban and rural areas, people often lived with animals which further increased the risk of disease. There were few doctors and there were no treatments for a wide variety of ailments and conditions while the best medical care was almost exclusively for those who could pay for it. Disease was also rife in institutions such as prisons, workhouses, hospitals and city slums where people lived in unhygenic conditions and in close proximity. Hospitals for the mentally ill offered prison-like conditions and patients were regarded with fear and ignorance of their condition.

By the 20th century, the political importance of public health, the economic availabilty of medical treatment, scientific discoveries and public knowledge of the importance of hygene and sanitation had largely eliminated the threat of plague. However the Spanish flu of 1918-1919 caused thousands of deaths in Ireland and is believed to have killed 3% to 6% of the world's population. Tuberculosis was a serious problem in Ireland until the 1950s when a free screening for TB was introduced by the Irish government which largely eliminated the problem by the 1960s.

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