School of History, Classics and Archaeology

Michail Raftakis

Michail Raftakis

Mortality Change in Hermoupolis, Greece, 1859-1940

Project outline

This doctoral study focuses on mortality change in a Greek town during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. While mortality decline in Greece seems to have started around 1890, we do not have any evidence of the starting point of mortality decline in Hermoupolis (Hionidou 2006). Hermoupolis experienced very high mortality levels with a CDR of 32 in 1896, a rate than can only be compared with some of the unhealthiest industrial cities in contemporary Europe and it was much higher than Greece’s CDR of 22 at the time (Valaoras 1969; Hionidou 2006). By the late 1920s the mortality rate in Hermoupolis had been reduced to 19 per 1000 population (with life expectancy at birth being 48.3), very close to the national Greek figure of 49 (Hionidou 2002).

Thus this PhD project aims to explore and quantify the patterns of mortality decline from the mid-nineteenth to the mid-twentieth century in the town of Hermoupolis, and it proposes that a demographic approach is vital if we are to understand the mechanisms of mortality decline at a local but also at a national level. Moreover, it aims to explain the reasons why mortality declined when it did and how these reasons may have differed from those of mortality declines that occurred elsewhere.

Little is known about mortality change in nineteenth- and twentieth-century Greece. An investigation of mortality change in a Greek town covering a span of 82 years has not been undertaken before. This study will, therefore, produce fresh insights into Greek urban demography and will be the first comprehensive study of mortality in a Greek town. Finally, Hermoupolis was chosen for this study not only because it was one of the most significant nineteenth-century Greek cities experiencing unusually high mortality but also because it possesses unique sources that survive from 1859 to this day.

Research interests

Historical Demography, Mortality, History of Medicine, Social History, Cultural History, European History, Greek History, Oral History, Gender History. 

Academic qualifications

BA in History and Archaeology, 4-years (University of Crete, Greece)
MSc in History (University of Edinburgh)

Related Activities:
International Summer School in Historical Demography I in Babes-Bolyai University, Cluj-Napoca, Romania (funded by EHPS-net and Newcastle University)
International Summer School in Historical Demography II: Reconstructing Life Course Dynamics in Radboud University, Nijmegen Netherlands (funded by EHPS-net and ESF)                                  

EHPS-Net/LONGPOP  Winter Course ‘Intermediate Data Structure and Extraction Software in the International Institute of Social History, Amsterdam, the  Netherlands (funded by EHPS-Net, LONGPOP and Newcastle University) 

Funded network

SHiP Network (Studying the history of Health in Port cities)

Conference papers

2017: ‘Infant and Early-Childhood Mortality in a Greek town, Hermoupolis (1859-1940)’- British Society for Population Studies Conference (BSPS), Liverpool, UK (funded by the BSPS)
2017: ‘Infant and Early-childhood Mortality in Hermoupolis (1859-1940)’- Graduate Research Colloquium, The Society for Modern Greek Studies, London, UK


HIS1027 European History
HIS1029 Varieties of History


British Society of Population Studies, UK
European Association for Young Historical Demographers
Society for Modern Greek Studies