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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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22. Historical Demography in Japan: Achievements and Problems


Historical Demography in Japan: Achievements and Problems


Historical Sources

There is a long track record, dating from before the war, of research into the population history of Japan. Irene Taeuber, The Population of Japan (1958), remains unsurpassed even though more than half a century has passed since publication (Taeuber 1958; Hayami 2001). One reason for this is the existence of macro data including national population surveys by province begun by the Tokugawa regime in 1721, and carried out for men and women separately every six years until 1846, enabling a total of 12 such records to be used. Using these makes the population trends for the whole of Japan by region easy to see.

As for the reliability of these surveys, however, the original methods for calculating these populations were left to the judgment of over 200 domain lords (daimyo), so they cannot be called accurate and figures were constantly underestimated. According to these records the total population of Japan fluctuated around 26 million plus or minus two million, but in reality another four or five million probably needs to be added. Despite this uncertainty, however, these surveys are worth evaluating as population surveys carried out by a pre-modern government. There are many books that handle this data (i.e. Sekiyama, Naotaro 1958). As for the population surveys by province produced by the Tokugawa regime, these have frequently been used uncritically, and in addition to the careful examinations of Louis Cullen,...

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