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Durham University

Department of Archaeology

Research Postgraduates

Publication details for Professor Rebecca Gowland

Hodson, C. M. & Gowland, R. L. (2019). Like Mother, Like Child: Investigating Perinatal and Maternal Health Stress in Post-Medieval London. In The Mother-Infant Nexus in Anthropology: Small Beginnings, Significant Outcomes. Gowland, Rebecca & Halcrow, Sian Springer. 39-64.

Author(s) from Durham


Post-Medieval London (sixteenth-nineteenth centuries) was a stressful environment for the poor. Overcrowded and squalid housing, physically demanding and risky working conditions, air and water pollution, inadequate diet and exposure to infectious diseases created high levels of morbidity and low life expectancy. All of these factors pressed with particular severity on the lowest members of the social strata, with burgeoning disparities in health between the richest and poorest. Foetal, perinatal and infant skeletal remains provide the most sensitive source of bioarchaeological information regarding past population health and in particular maternal well-being. This chapter examined the evidence for chronic growth and health disruption in 136 foetal, perinatal and infant skeletons from four low-status cemetery samples in post-medieval London. The aim of this study was to consider the impact of poverty on the maternal-infant nexus, through an analysis of evidence of growth disruption and pathological lesions. The results highlight the dire consequences of poverty in London during this period from the very earliest moments of life.