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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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9. The Development of Chinese Historical Demography since 1950


The Development of Chinese Historical Demography Since 1950

Zhongwei ZHAO1


China is, and always has been, a major element in the world demography. The Chinese population was already close to 60 million in the year 2 AD according to available records. While there were marked fluctuations in estimated population size for China and the world throughout the first millennium, many scholars believe that the Chinese population probably comprised a quarter or more of the world population for most of the time (McEvedy and Jones 1978; Grigg 1980; Maddison 2003). China's population reached 100 million by the eleventh century (Zhao and Xie 1988). Since then, it continued to grow despite notable oscillations. According to Ho (1959), the Chinese population reached 150 million by the late sixteenth or the early seventeenth century. While not all scholars share this view, most of them have accepted that the Chinese population reached about 300 million by the year 1800 and 430 million by 1850. During the next 100 years, the growth of Chinese population became relatively slow. It was around 550 million in the mid-twentieth century according to the 1953 census (Zhao and Xie 1988; Yao and Yin 1994). Since then, China’s population entered a period of rapid growth. It has more than doubled in the past six decades and climbed to 1.3 billion by 2010. In the second millennium, China continued to be the home of around a quarter of the world’s population.

China not...

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