Urban Mortality in Greece: Evidence from Hermoupolis, Syros (1859–1940)

Michail Raftakis, Newcastle University

This paper examines mortality patterns in the city of Hermoupolis, on the Greek island of Syros from 1859 to 1940. It outlines the main reasons that contributed to mortality decline and removal of the ‘urban penalty’ in Hermoupolis during the first decades of the twentieth century. This study draws on a unique database, containing individual-level death records (ca 45,000 individuals) for the entire population of the city. In the mid-nineteenth century Hermoupolis was the most important Greek industrial centre and one of the biggest ports in the East Mediterranean. By the late-nineteenth century and due to the rise of other ports and industrial centres in the Greek mainland, the city experienced a serious economic decline and gradually transformed into a provincial and rather insignificant city. Levels of mortality in Hermoupolis in the second half of the nineteenth century were high in comparison to other contemporary cities, with life expectancy at birth (e0) ranging from 28 years in 1870 to 35 years in 1907. Hermoupolis’ CDR of 32 per thousand in 1896 was higher than the national average (around 25 at the time). The high prevalence of infectious diseases combined with a rather low e0 (43 for both sexes in 1928) suggest that the second stage of Omran’s epidemiologic transition ‘age of receding pandemics’ was still ongoing, although in its final phase. A combination of factors was found to be responsible for the mortality decline in Hermoupolis, including immunisation, decline in fertility and wider access to water. Finally, this paper produces important new insights into Mediterranean urban historical demography and is the first comprehensive study of urban mortality in Greece utilizing the largest and one of the longest time-series yet calculated.

No extended abstract or paper available

 Presented in Session 35. Effects of Environmental Conditions on Urban Mortality