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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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20. History of Historical Demography in Ireland


History of Historical Demography in Ireland

Christopher M. KENNEDY1


In looking at the history of Ireland through the lens of historical demography, one can glean a deeper understanding of the many processes that worked to create Ireland and her people. One leading figure in the field of historical demography, Peter Laslett, contends that “demographic history does indeed illuminate change in the whole structure of society” (Laslett 1966, p. 6). Almost all major issues in Irish history can be examined, interpreted, and hopefully better understood through the application of the methods used in historical demography.

Undeniably, a more complete understanding of history has to be a collaborative effort among historians, demographers, sociologists, economists and many other social scientists. Unfortunately, for centuries history had been the purview of the elites, especially the intellectuals who recorded and wrote about history. For centuries history was written without attention to such key questions as: what is the average life span? What is the average age at marriage? Is the population in growth or decline? To what extent do people move about and for what reasons? Key issues of mortality, fertility, and migration have been lightly covered or dismissed wholly by historians. Oftentimes history was confused with the political or economic opinions of the articulate few, the views of the newspapers, the leading public men, the official reports, and records without taking into consideration perhaps the opinions of the majority of the population or those pre-statistical and...

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