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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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24. Historical Demography in Latin America: An Assessment


Historical Demography in Latin America: An Assessment

Maria Luiza MARCILIO1

It may be reckless for one person to write the history of historical demography for such a large area as Latin America. This is therefore not an exhaustive presentation, but an outline of the main advances in the region: a story where I had the privilege of being a participant, a fervid supporter and a disseminator from the very beginning (Marcilio 2000b). Using sources that had practically never been explored by historians in a systematic way, and applying the new techniques and methods of historical demography researchers were able to gain new solid insight and dispel myths about our past. These revelations naturally provoked new questions and in turn, new research.

The Pioneers

The first studies of the Latin American population date from the end of the nineteenth century. However, an important change occurred in the 1960s with the first studies in historical demography, inspired particularly by the family reconstitution method created by Louis Henry (Fleury and Henry 1956) and by the household and family structure analyses proposed by Peter Laslett (Laslett 1966). The existence of three associations of historical demography (French, Italian, and Spanish)2 also exerted important stimuli on the development of historical demography in Latin America. However the surprising results of the first surveys based on serial, quantitative and systematic investigation of demographic data, particularly aroused the interest of Latin American researchers. The new findings allowed a wholly new...

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