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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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37. Historical Demography in United States


Historical Demography in the United States

Emily R. MERCHANT and J. David HACKER1

In 1977, the Population Association of America designated Louis Henry the first recipient of its prestigious Irene B. Taeuber Award for his development of family reconstitution twenty years earlier. This method involved linking family members to one another and over time through their appearances in ecclesiastical records of baptisms, marriages, and burials, facilitating the analysis of demographic processes in the past and thereby inaugurating the field of historical demography. Family reconstitution quickly produced a rich account of historical population dynamics in much of Europe, but was of limited utility in the United States. Religious freedom, the lack of an established state church, high levels of geographic mobility, and racial and ethnic heterogeneity contributed to a relative dearth of church vital records, and most of the country lacked civil vital registration until the early twentieth century. By necessity, historical demography in the United States has required the development of alternative sources and methods. Given the relative scarcity and short time depth of historical records, the field has also been less focused on the period before the demographic transition and more open to the study of populations outside its borders. Over the last fifty years, historical demographers in the United States have contributed to a rich body of knowledge about population and population change not only in the U.S., but also in Europe, Asia, and Latin America.

Historical demography is motivated by the...

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