1+3, European Doctoral School of Demography pathway


About me

I am currently undertaking my pre-doctoral training at the European Doctoral School of Demography. Prior to this I studied for two Postgraduate Certificates in social and demographic research methods: one from King’s College London and the other from the University of Groningen. I am a social scientist with a background in population and development geography, having obtained a masters degree in Population and Development from the London School of Economics and a bachelors degree in Human Geography from the University of St Andrews. Previously, I worked as a Research Leader for Volunteer Uganda, a Health Consultant to the Met Office (UK) and as a Language Fellow for British Council Tunisia. In 2012, I was elected a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society.

My research

Much is known about the structure of past European populations and how their population dynamics have informed the structure of the present day population. In contrast, little is known about even the relatively recent demographic history of Africa. This is problematic because the rate of contemporary population change in Sub-Saharan Africa is amongst the most rapid in the world. If governments and other institutions are to manage this rate of change effectively, they must understand populations that went before and the socio-cultural, economic and environmental context in which they have emerged today. The overall research aim of this project is to reconstruct child mortality trends in the Mwanza region of Northern Tanzania using historical parish data on communion and confirmation. In doing so, this research asks the following research questions:

1. How can historical parish records on communion and confirmation be used to reconstruct late nineteenth and twentieth century child mortality in Mwanza, Tanzania?

2. When and why did child mortality begin to decline in Mwanza, Tanzania?

3. How vulnerable was the child mortality rate to external pressures such as economics shocks, weather events and disease epidemics, in the various parishes, and how did this vulnerability change over time?

The difference my research makes

Fundamentally, this research attempts to understand the determinants of the downward trend of child mortality rates in this region of East Africa. In doing so, it is hoped that this project will build upon the knowledge concerning the demographic transition in late developing countries, especially with respect to mortality trends. Aside from filling in gaps in our understanding of Africa’s demographic history, this research aims to contribute to our understanding of child mortality at the aggregate level. Considering the substantial policy interest in this issue in Africa, the results and conclusions of this research has the potential to (re)frame debates on this issue and influence the development of policy.


Dr Sarah Walters

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