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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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4. Sources for an Australian Interdisciplinary Historical Demography


Sources for an Australian Interdisciplinary Historical Demography

Rebecca KIPPEN and David LUCAS1

This chapter begins with quantitative sources: population censuses, vital registration, administrative statistics (including convict records), and sample surveys. This is followed by a short section on the many qualitative sources and a discussion of the neglected field of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander demography. We conclude that although Australia lacks a Centre akin to Britain’s Cambridge Group for the History of Population and Social Structure, historical demography is experiencing a renaissance in Australia thanks in part to the work of multi-disciplinary teams which are employing previously unavailable sources.

Population Censuses

Australia had been inhabited by Aborigines for thousands of years before British colonization began in 1788 when the First Fleet arrived carrying 250 free persons and 730 convicts. According to Elspeth Young (1994), “Aboriginal Australians today describe the last two centuries as a process of invasion and seizure of land from its rightful owners.” They do not agree with the perception that it was a peaceful occupation of a largely unclaimed territory. Although estimates have been made of the Aboriginal population at the time of colonization – and for the preceding millennia of settlement – the true figures may nev ← 101 | 102 → er be known. In contrast, the colonising population of convicts and free settlers were closely documented by the colonial administrators.

Before the first census in Australia, a number of population counts known as musters were held. Most of...

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