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Using probate data to determine historical male occupational structures

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Leigh Shaw-Taylor and Sir E.A. Wrigley recently published new estimates for the male occupational structure of England and Wales. Their pre-census figures are based on parish register data, but before Rose's Act of 1812, parish registers offer occupational information only in a sample of parishes, and are virtually silent about employments before 1690. This paper examines how the gaps in the parish register data can be filled using a data source which offer more universal coverage and goes back much further in time: probate records. It demonstrates how an, at first sight, critical deficiency of probate data, namely their severe bias towards capital-intensive and/or relatively well-paying occupations, can be overcome by using parish register data for calibration.



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University of Cambridge

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