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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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19. Indian Historical Demography


Indian Historical Demography

Ravindran GOPINATH1

Despite the very rich and keenly contested corpus of works relating the history of India and an impressive amount of work on contemporary demography, the sub-discipline of historical demography is as yet weakly developed in India when compared to the strides made in the West and in East Asia.

Much of Indian interest in past demography may be described, paraphrasing Hollingsworth’s words as: “… the study of the ebb and flow of the numbers of mankind demography at its crudest level” (Hollingsworth 1969, p. 37). Till the 1970s all research publications on the demographic past of the country dealt with estimating population sizes for different parts of the country at various points in time. Since W.H. Moreland published his authoritative work on the Mughal economy in 1920 (Moreland 1920), a series of scholars have speculated on the size of the population for different parts of the country or for India as a whole. These include estimates by Morris David Morris (1974), Irfan Habib (1985, 1995), Ashok V. Desai (1972), Shireen Moosvi (1984), Alan W. Heston (unpublished), Tapan Raychaudhuri (1982, 1983) and Irfan Habib (1982). The precensus population estimates for the different parts of India were compiled by Durgaprasad Bhattacharya for the Census in 1961 (Bhattacharya 1963a, 1963b).

The first and only full length comprehensive work on Indian historical demography is Kingsley Davis’ The Population of India and Pakistan, published as far back as 1951 (Davis 1951). Davis’ definition...

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