Bruxelles ma belle, Bruxelles mortelle. Mortality in Brussels at the turn of the 20th century

Start - End 
2014 - 2018 (ongoing)
Department of History
Other institution(s) 
Vrije Universiteit Brussel
Research Focus 
Research Period 
Research Region 
Research Language 



Throughout the period of 1890 to 1910, the adult male population of the city and district of Brussels experienced excess mortality. The mortality level of this group was much higher in Brussels than in highly industrialised cities and districts, such as Liège and Mons. It was also higher compared to large and important Flemish cities and their surrounding districts, such as Antwerp and Ghent. So far, it is unclear what the nature and the causes of these health disadvantages were.

The first objective of this research project implies the use of unique historical demographic sources to reconstruct the mortality patterns of Belgium’s largest cities and districts between 1890 and 1910. It will clarify how the age-, sex- and disease-specific mortality rates of the Brussels district, city and suburbs diverged from the other Belgian districts and large cities. The second objective is to explain which factors were responsible for the high mortality levels in Brussels. Quantitative and qualitative material will be combined to interpret the levels and trends in health and mortality. Finally, death certificates of the city of Brussels, Molenbeek-Saint-Jean and Anderlecht will be used to examine the link between people’s profession, residence and mortality at the individual level.



Phd Student(s)


Patrick Deboosere