Half a Century of Interdisciplinarity
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.
21. A History of Historical Demography in Italy
A History of Historical Demography in Italy1
Lucia POZZI2 and Eugenio SONNINO3
Historical Demography in Italy before 1940
Italian historical demography research before 1940 can be divided into two phases when scholars devoted exceptional attention to the analysis of past populations. Both phases started and ended in the period.4 The first phase is associated with the name of Karl Julius Beloch (1854–1929), the second with that of Corrado Gini (1884–1965).
Karl Julius Beloch came from Prussia to Italy in 1870 as a young student and lived there until his death, after a brilliant academic career as a professor of ancient history and a scholar of the history of populations. As a historian of ancient Greece and Rome, he systematically advocated the relevance of a study of population when researching economies and societies in the past, and not only in the ancient world. Beloch saw population studies as a methodology to develop critical tools capable of overcoming a “flat” reading and an uncritical and crudely empirical approach to the sources. He proposed a path to reach a truly new and ← 357 | 358 → modern scientific education of the historian, as a multidisciplinary scholar. Beloch was a forerunner of modern historiography guidelines and a pioneer of historical demography, with extraordinary knowledge of archives and demography. His research was vast and comprehensive, and his publications are still reliable as reference works.
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