A good time to wed? marriage and economic distress in England and Wales, 1839‐1914

Humphrey Southall, David Gilbert

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Statistics of marriage are generally seen as belonging with those of births and deaths in the province of the demographer, but as such they are neglected. In particular, their relationship with population change is less direct than that of births or deaths. This article examines marriage statistics in a quite different way and argues that they give us a unique insight into the operation of the economy and, especially, the impact of economic distress at the local level. The article is organized into four sections: the first reviews existing research on marriage and the economy, and explores the precise nature of the linkages involved; the second uses detailed statistics from the reports of the Registrar General to explore the behaviour of the marriage rate in different regions and localities; the third uses parish register evidence from Bolton to examine the experience of particular occupational groups; the fourth investigates the relationship between marriage, trade union unemployment rates, and small debt statistics, and discusses the utility of all three indices as evidence of local economic conditions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)35-57
Number of pages23
JournalThe Economic History Review
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Feb 1996

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