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Average smallpox deaths per decade in London, Berlin and Copenhagen 1629-1836

From the 1630s to the 1830s, the annual number of smallpox deaths in each decade fluctuated greatly in London. The population of London in 1650 is estimated to have stood at 350,000 inhabitants, with an average annual death toll of roughly 680 people during this time. As London's population grew over the next hundred years, the number of smallpox deaths also increased at varying rates in each decade.

Scientific advancements flatten the curve

The average number of annual smallpox deaths was between 1.7 and 2.5 thousand in each decade between 1710 and 1799, as the introduction of inoculation (i.e. using a mild dose of smallpox to develop some immunity to the virus) helped to lower the smallpox death rate to some extent. Following Jenner's discovery of vaccination in 1796 (which provided a much safer and more reliable method of protection), the death rate decreases further. London's population at this time was just under one million people, and the average number of deaths in the first decade of the 1800s was 1.4 thousand per year (or 1.4 deaths per thousand inhabitants). Vaccination brought this number down even further in the next quarter century, despite the fact that mandatory vaccination was not implemented by the British government until 1853.

Smallpox death rate in other capitals

While there is little reliable data for other major cities in the seventeenth or early-eighteenth century, London's death rate can be compared with that of Berlin or Copenhagen at the turn of the nineteenth century, during a time of increased urbanization and industrialization. In 1800, Berlin was estimated to have a population of roughly 170,000 people, and Copenhagen's was 100,000. This gave Berlin a smallpox of death rate of roughly 2.7 deaths per thousand in the first decade of the 1800s, and Copenhagen's was 0.67 deaths per thousand. Berlin's smallpox death rate was consistent between 1770 and 1809, while Copenhagen and London's both decrease after vaccination was introduced (Denmark made it mandatory in 1810). Unfortunately, a lack of information from this time makes it difficult to draw further conclusions about the spread of smallpox in urban centers in these years.

Average annual number of smallpox deaths per decade in London, Berlin and Copenhagen between 1629 and 1836

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Release date

December 2018


Denmark, United Kingdom (England), Germany (Berlin)

Survey time period

1893 to 1897

Supplementary notes

*Berlin averages for 1770-1774 and 1782-1789 only.

Please note the uneven intervals at the beginning and end of the data sets.

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Statistics on "Smallpox"

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