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A Global History of Historical Demography

Half a Century of Interdisciplinarity

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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3. Historical Demography in Argentina

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Historical Demography in Argentina

Hernán OTERO1

Historical demography – i.e. the study of past populations based on specific reconstruction techniques of sources that date from an earlier statistical period – is the core of a growing, long-lasting history of population, although relations between the two fields have remained unsteady throughout time. Thus defined, the emergence of historical demography in Latin America was basically the result of how the region appropriated European methods and models. This import – challenged on occasion as a “typical example of cultural dependency” (Pérez Brignoli 2004) – was both productive and problematic. It was productive because it triggered many valuable studies, and problematic because the methods and notions born of the European experience were not readily applicable to the Latin American reality. Among other factors, the latter is characterized by the demographic collapse of its original population, the import of slave labor, European immigration, miscegenation of ethnic groups related through unequal power relations (particularly during colonial times, although also after independence), and most importantly, by the lesser clout of the Church and the European family model. Since the 1980s, this scenario was compounded by the so-called crisis of history that affected both the great theoretical and methodological paradigms of the sixties and seventies (i.e. functionalism, modernization theory, Marxism, and the Neo-Malthusianism propagated by the second-generation of the Annales School), as well as quantification methods and the use of serial sources.

Both factors, especially the difficulty of applying European methods provided Latin American...

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