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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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10. Fertiliy

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10.   Fertiliy

10.1   Total Number of Children

10.1.1   Human Biological Thoughts on the Number of Children

The numbers of children, which will lead to a long-term decline of European populations, are largely subject to the discretion of the parents. In the vast majority of cases, these operate today with a more or less rational family planning. In many cases the parents can realize their ideas about the desired number of children and the time when they would like to have them. Unwanted pregnancies can be avoided and medical assistance can be asked for when a desired pregnancy does not occur. Decisive for family planning are not only the medical and technical means, but even more so lifestyles, financial and professional perspectives, attitudes towards marriage and family, and the expectations of friends and relatives.

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