Christopher Langford is Emeritus Reader in Demography. He first took up an appointment at the LSE in 1967, and continued as a member of staff there until his retirement in 2001. For some years the main focus of his research was birth control practice. (Before coming to the LSE, he had been one of those involved in carrying out and reporting on the West Malaysian Family Survey, a survey of fertility and contraceptive practice in peninsular Malaysia). At the LSE he took over responsibility for the implementation, data preparation and analysis of the 1967-68 Population Investigation Committee survey of fertility and contraceptive practice in Great Britain, and wrote the final report (C.M. Langford, Birth Control Practice and Marital Fertility in Great Britain, 1976). Additional analyses of the1967-68 material led to articles by him on trends in breast feeding and in attitudes to abortion. In later work he compared the 1967-68 data with information on contraceptive practice provided by comparable such surveys, both earlier and later (C.M.Langford, ‘Birth control Practice in Great Britain: A Review of the Evidence from Cross-sectional Surveys’, in Population Research in Britain, edited by M.J.Murphy and J.N.Hobcraft, Supplement to Population Studies 1991).
In the late 1970s he began work on the demography of Sri Lanka, following an assessment of the available data which indicated that, in addition to the material from decennial censuses, Sri Lanka, very unusually for a poor country, also had reasonable registration data, at least for births and deaths, from as far back as the early twentieth century. In modern times, though the long-running civil war sometimes disrupted registration coverage, a wide range of usable data have also become available from surveys. He published many articles on the demography of Sri Lanka over the years, covering trends in fertility and mortality, and, for example, the fertility of Tamil estate workers, sex differentials in mortality, the influenza epidemic of 1918-19, and the reasons for the decline of mortality immediately after the Second World War.
Another strand in his work has involved research on the development of demography in Britain, both intellectually and organisationally, and the significance of particular individuals in this development. (See, for example, C.M.Langford, ‘The Eugenics Society and the Development of Demography in Britain: The International Population Union, the British Population Society and the Population Investigation Committee’, in Essays in the History of Eugenics, edited by R.A.Peel, 1998).
In recent years most of his research has focussed on the impact of the 1918-19 influenza pandemic. (A detailed account of this outbreak in Sri Lanka had already been given). He argued that the age pattern of mortality in the epidemic in England and Wales strongly suggested that the virus responsible for the pandemic was closely related to that which caused an earlier outbreak of influenza, in 1847-48. In work on China he examined the possibility that the 1918-19 pandemic might have originated there. At present he is working on the impact of the 1918-19 influenza outbreak on London.