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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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36. From Statistics and Political Economy to Historical Demography.


From Statistics and Political Economy to Historical Demography

Two and a Half Centuries of Population Research in Switzerland


To properly understand the place that has come to be taken by historical demography in Switzerland since the 1960s, it is important to stress the contribution made by the early demographers – whom we could call the demographers avant la lettre of the history of population. This consideration of the past is important for a number of reasons: the type and the quality of sources varied very widely within Switzerland and thus influenced the way in which population issues were dealt with by the historians of the 20th century. But the manner in which historical demography gained credence goes some way to explaining its further development and especially the early fragmentation of the discipline. In fact, at the same time and parallel to the influence of the French historians, Jean Meuvret and Pierre Goubert, and the demographers of the Institut National d’Etudes Démographiques (INED), especially Louis Henry on the French-speaking part of Switzerland, Swiss German-speaking historians for their part were more influenced by an approach combining social history and ethnology/Volkskunde, especially as it can be seen in the work of Rudolf Braun regarding demographic and social issues linked to proto-industry and industrialization (Braun 1960, 1965).2 Whilst in historical demography the emphasis was on the use of parish registers and the “reconstitution des familles”, the second approach was more macro-demographic, since one of...

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