Demography as political science in modern France
Only in France is demography essentially the population science: it is taught at school, newspapers feature the evolution of fertility rates in their headlines and the subject sparks ideological debates in the media. How did demography become a national identity issue?
The French exception is attributable to a political history that reached fulcrums during the Second World War under the racist Vichy regime and then after the Liberation, with the development of population policies and the creation of the French National Institute for Demographic Studies (INED). The book is the first to retrace its controversial genesis and analyze its ramifications for the following decades. It shows how theories, institutions and demographic policies developed simultaneously in France. Its reflection on the links between ideologies, science and the state offers a model that could be applied to the history of many other scientific disciplines.
Paul-André Rosental’s indispensable study examines the emergence of demography as an autonomous discipline and its association with the state in mid-twentieth-century France. Demography’s success in the immediate post-war years came in part from its dual concern with both "science" and "action," which allowed policy makers to claim both knowledge and expertise in addressing social problems. Rosental’s measured tone hides a provocative argument that should serve as both a model and a foil for others working in the history of the human sciences.
Joshua Cole, University of Michigan.
Chronology of the main legal decisions and events quoted
Decree of 27/1/1920 (OJ 28/1): creation of the High Council on Births within the Ministry of Hygiene, Assistance and Social Welfare.
Decree of 18/7/1920: Permanent Inter-ministerial Commission on Immigration.
Law of 31/7/1920: repression of abortion and of the dissemination of contraception.
Decree of 12/5/1921: Departmental birth commissions.
Law of 27/3/1923: penalization of abortion.
Law of 5/4/1928: law on social security.
Law of 17/7/1928: Loucheur law on social housing.
Law of 11/3/1932: Landry law on family allowances.
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