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Demographic Aspects of the Early Modern Times

The Example of the Zurich Countryside in a European Perspective

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Walter Letsch

The study deals predominantly with basic questions of Historical Demography that have so far not yet been tackled, as no adequate sources seemed to exist, or the effort for digging into these problems seemed outrageous. Many major gaps are filled in this study, based on two types of sources: 14 census-like nominal population listings for 126 parishes of the Zurich countryside, complemented by 52 parishes of adjacent areas, and four reconstituted communities with very early parish books. This allowed coming up with detailed population structures by year of age, sex and marital status for the year 1634, with regional variations. Full, detailed mortality tables by sex and for all ages could be calculated for the period 1634–37, by far the earliest mortality tables worldwide. Mortality during plague epidemics was analysed in detail, too, resulting in the first and only plague mortality table. Model life tables are presented as well, showing a pattern that differs strongly from what has been assumed so far. New insights could also be gained about premarital sex and the importance of remarriages.

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9. Marital Status and Marriage Behavior

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9.   Marital Status and Marriage Behavior

9.1   Nuptiality

9.1.1   Marriage Models

The earliest demographic models relate to mortality. Nuptiality and fertility models are more complex insofar as they deal firstly with demographic processes that can be deliberately influenced, and secondly with processes that are not unique, but recurring. While birth and death occur for each person only once, marriage and widowhood (in later times also divorce) can occur repeatedly. Even more complex is the problem area of fertility, since the birth rate and the birth spacing are dependent on numerous factors, including mortality and nuptiality.

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