During the early twentieth century Britain was approaching the end of a ‘demographic transition’ from the high birth and death rates typical of pre-industrial society to the modern situation of low birth and death rates and relatively slow population growth. Population in England, at least, continued to grow, but at much slower rates than during the nineteenth century. In Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland the population total tended to stagnate (see Table 3.1).
Population growth results from an excess of births over deaths and/or from net migration. After 1920 both birth and death rates continued on downward trends which had been evident since the late nineteenth century. After a brief postwar baby boom, the birth rate fell faster than the death rate and the rate of natural increase fell by the 1930s to levels which caused some alarm. There was considerable net emigration during the 1920s but the flow was reversed from 1930 as British citizens returned from abroad, refugees fled Continental Europe and modest inflows continued from the Irish Republic (Ermisch 1983).
Population grew by about 2 million in the 1920s and 1.8 million in the 1930s (see Table 3.2). This represented a sharp fall in growth compared
Table 3.1 Population of Great Britain and Ireland, 1901-51 (millions)
England and Wales
Notes: (a) = Northern Ireland; (b) = Republic of Ireland
Source: Mitchell and Deane 1962:6-7.