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A Global History of Historical Demography

Half a Century of Interdisciplinarity

Edited By Antoinette Fauve-Chamoux, Ioan Bolovan and Sølvi Sogner

At the XXIst World Congress of the International Committee of Historical Sciences (ICHS/CISH) in 2010 in Amsterdam, the International Commission for Historical Demography (ICHD) decided to write an overview of its own history. Fifty years had gone by since the CISH XIst World Congress in Stockholm 1960, when historians took the first tentative initiatives to create a wholly new interdisciplinary commission for historical demography, a meeting place for a budding discipline where researchers in letters and science could meet, exchange ideas, cultivate and develop a new field. This book is the outcome of that decision.

Demography, past, present and future is a common concern for all inhabitants of this planet. The variation is great, however, with regard to sources, social and political conditions, state of the art, technological development, national and local initiatives. In the course of half a century many changes take place. Keeping abreast of the gigantic streams of information and innovation in the field is demanding, even more so for a discipline with global dimensions and ambitions. The book makes fascinating reading, and preparing it has been a rewarding and thought provoking experience. The thirty-seven articles in the book represent as many different stories.

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2. Historical Demography on Sub-Saharan Africa (1975−2010)


Historical Demography on Sub-Saharan Africa (1975–2010)

Dennis D. CORDELL, Elizabeth OMOLUABI and Nancy STIEGLER1

Two dates, two events, and three people are associated with research on the historical demography of sub-Saharan Africa. At the suggestion of the esteemed and beloved journalist-turned-historian Basil Davidson, the Centre for African Studies at the University of Edinburgh devoted its annual seminar in 1977 to African historical demography. Co-convenors Christopher Fyfe and David McMaster set out the seminar’s objectives:

Historians of Africa are continually thwarted by the lack of reliable statistics about African populations in the past. No authoritative estimates are available. Most are guesswork. The aim of this seminar was to assemble scholars from different disciplines to try and get some idea of how much is known, and how much is not known, about the populations of Africa at different periods (Fyfe and McMaster 1977, 1).

Other scholars apparently had similar preoccupations because thirty historians, demographers, anthropologists, archaeologists, linguists from Europe, North America, and Africa came to the seminar and presented papers on a wide variety of topics. The Centre published the proceedings later that year. In 1981, Fyfe and McMaster invited scholars back to the Centre for a second seminar on African historical demography. The 1981 seminar attracted papers from forty- four scholars representing more disciplines and more countries, including many more from Africa (Fyfe and McMaster 1981). Its published proceedings were almost twice as long as those from 1977. The variety and number...

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