By Richard Dennis
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Extra info for A Social Geography of England and Wales
17). Many townsfolk, like their country cousins, responded to the call for help to get the harvest home. According to Clark and Slack (1972, 1976) every pre-industrial town displayed at least one of the following characteristics: a specialist economic function; a marked concentration of population; a sophisticated political superstructure; and a community function which extended beyond the immediate limits of the town. The lowest order of urban centre had strong rural overtones and exhibited only a couple of the above characteristics.
Widows, widowers and orphans were present in many families in times past, but so too were stepmothers and stepfathers since re-marriage was common. Some of our ancestors lived out their three score years and ten but they were rare and were viewed as veritable 'patriarchs'. From the late sixteenth to the early eighteenth centuries life expectations at birth fluctuated within the range of 35 to 40 years. Harvest failures and outbreaks of disease provoked short-term fluctuations on the graph. Given the relatively late age of marriage and relatively early age of death it is not surprising that few children knew both of their grandparents in pre-industrial times.
Between 1801 and 1911 the total population of England and Wales quadrupled but, as Law (1967) has pointed out, rural population barely increased (and actually decreased after 1861) while urban population increased nine and a half times (Fig. 3). A few towns grew by less than the national average (4x), including some small market towns unaffected by industrialization and by-passed by the railways, coastal ports which lost trade to competing railway companies, a few early industrial centres based on water power in remote locations and some large regional centres located far from the coalfields.