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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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18. Historical Demography in Iceland, 1970–2011


Historical Demography in Iceland, 1970–2011


In an article in the Icelandic journal Sagnir in 1980, the historian Loftur Guttormsson (1980) presented an overview of the trends in historical demography in Europe since 1960. The article included a detailed description of the family reconstitution method developed by Louis Henry. Guttormsson also presented research within the field of family history above all in France and England; he discussed the works of various French historians of the Annales School as well as recent findings of the Cambridge Group presented in the volume Family and Household in Past Time (Laslett and Wall 1972).

Guttormsson wondered why such little attention had been paid to research in historical demography by Icelandic historians. He pointed out that Iceland, like the other Nordic countries, has source material on population development and population structure in the past of excellent quality. Furthermore, he noted that more studies on population issues had been carried out by scholars from the natural sciences than by historians. The journal Sagnir was published by students in history at the University of Iceland and Guttormsson’s article can thus be seen as a plead to young historians to pay close attention to new international trends in historical studies, in particular in historical demography.

When looking at trends in Icelandic historiography since the early 1980s it might be argued that the Icelandic community of historians responded to Guttormsson’s request. Thus, several publications dealing with...

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