Quantitative Data: Examples of Data Structures

2. Simple Data Structures

2.1 Seventeenth-century Bill of Mortality

Page from Bill of Mortality CC licensed, Wellcome

Weekly "bills of mortality" were published in London (and some other cities) during the outbreak of the plague in 1665-6, recording not simply deaths from plague but other causes of mortality as well. This page summarises deaths by their causes; other pages list deaths by parish. This source would be well suited to recording in a spreadsheet as it has already been aggregated and is in consistent tabular formats.

While the categories used by the compilers are standardised to some degree, the main challenges for a modern historian are deciding how to define and classify some of the one-off and accidental deaths, and how to interpret unfamiliar categories such as "Rising of the Lights".

The causes of death data could be presented in a simple two-column table:

Stated cause of death

Total

Abortive

5

Aged

43

Ague

2

Apoplexie

1

Bleeding

2

Burnt in his Bed by a Candle at St Giles Cripplegate

1

Canker

1