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Wurzbg Medizinhist Mitt. 2006;25:241-338.

[Mortality in Nuremberg in the 19th century (about 1800 to 1913)].

[Article in German]


Before the middle of the 19th century urban life was hazardous, life expectancy in big cities was shorter than in the countryside, it was half as high as it is today. Cities used to be called "the graves of mankind"; they were unhygienic, since their inhabitants lived under crowded, unhealthy conditions. In German cities infant mortality was extremely high, one out of three new-born children died within its first year. In most big cities more people died in any given year than were born. In 1806, when the Imperial City of Nuremberg was absorbed by the Kingdom of Bavaria, it had 25 000 inhabitants, fewer than around the year 1600. In the following decades Nuremberg grew quickly, up to 50000 in 1846 and 100000 in 1881, 330000 in 1910. Its population was living extremely crowded within the medieval city-walls, up to 58 000 (1885) in the old parts of the city, more than twice as many as in 1806. Mortality was bound to increase, as more and more people moved to Nuremberg. Mortality rose from 25.5 per thousand in the 1820's to 29.4 in the 1850's and 32.8 in the 1860's. This increase of population was mainly due to migration from outside, from the countryside. New industries settled down in Nuremberg and provided new jobs, the new factories produced lots of smoke and dangerous dust. The general living conditions of the workers were poor, people were much smaller than nowadays. During the industrialisation labor was backbreaking, working hours were extremely long, and annual working hours were more than twice as long as today. New and better legislation was written by the Northern German Confederation, founded in 1867. Now the magistrate of Nuremberg recognised that something had to be done. In the following years physicians began to collect information as to morbidity and mortality in various parts of Nuremberg. Very many people still died of infectious diseases, esp. of tubercolosis, typhoid fever, diphtheria, pertussis, scarlet fever and other infectious diseases. There were many cases of bronchitis and deadly pneumonia. Even suicide was an important cause of death. In 1886 mortality at Nuremberg peaked for the last time above 30. Nuremberg had fewer doctors than other big cities in Germany. The city-fathers noticed that the public wells and the drinking water were dirty--they were getting more and more contaminated as time went by. It proved extremely difficult to provide this fast growing population with "free goods" like clean water and air. In the 1870's Nuremberg began to build a new water supply and a modern municipal sewer system. Cases of typhoid fever declined quickly thereafter. The magistrate did not provide new apartment-houses, but it took care that the new houses were more hygienic, with toilets and other necessary facilities. After 1880 new vaccinations were developed by modern medicine, these and other methods of preventive medicin proved to be more important for prolonging human lifes than therapeutic medicine. In the 1880's a steep rise of income can be registered, it brought more and better food, more meat, and better living and working conditions--and fewer working-hours per year. At the eve of World War I, Nuremberg was one of the ten or twelve biggest cities in Germany, an industrialized city with a hard-working population, people with little education and income. Urban mortality in Nuremberg declined rather slowly. In 1867 35.7 percent of all deceased persons were infants, less than one year old, in 1913 that percentage had declined to 30.7. In 1867 only 9.3 per cent of the deceased were older than 70, in 1913 the elderly constituted 14.2 per cent. Very many people still died in their forties or fifties.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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