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Rethinking East-Central Europe: family systems and co-residence in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth

Volume 1: Contexts and analyses – Volume 2: Data quality assessments, documentation, and bibliography


Mikołaj Szołtysek

This book reconstructs fundamental aspects of family organization across historical Poland-Lithuania, one of the largest political entities in early modern Europe. Using a plethora of quantitative measurements and demographic microsimulation, the author captures and elucidates the complex patterns of leaving home and life-cycle service, marriage and household formation, along with domestic group structures and living arrangements among different subpopulations of Poland-Lithuania, highlighting a variety of ways in which these patterns were nested in their respective local and regional contexts. By showing that at the end of the 18 th century at least three distinct family systems existed in the Polish-Lithuanian territories, Szołtysek challenges a number of orthodoxies in the ‘master narratives’ on the European geography of family forms of F. Le Play, J. Hajnal, P. Laslett, and their followers. Volume two of the book contains an extensive bibliography along with a thorough archival documentation of the census-like microdata used in the book, and provides detailed information on their quality and further technicalities pertaining to data analysis.
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1. Appendix 1: Data quality assessment


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1.  Appendix 1: Data quality assessment

‘Immaculate materials are non-existent even in contemporary statistics’

(Witold Kula 1951, 96)

1.1  Introduction

More than in many other sectors of demography, researchers studying past populations (and especially populations of the so-called ‘prestatistical age’)1 need to use data that are often very rough, imprecise, or fragmentary. This problem has led demographic historians to pay special attention to the tasks of data assessment and checking. These practices have become so important that they are now considered ‘the cornerstone of research in historical demography’ (Henry 1968a; Hollingsworth 1968; Dupâquier 1974, 9; Del Panta et al. 2006, 597–598).

Indeed, many experts on early modern statistical materials would be inclined to admit that the ‘18th century is still a sheer jungle of uncertainties and traps,’ and that ‘the statistical materials of the feudal era differ substantially from those of later ages in that they were collected haphazardly and analysed without sill; as a result, they usually embrace just part of the phenomenon which they refer to, which makes them incomplete’ (Kula 1951, 96; similarly Gieysztorowa 1971, 558–561). In light of these problems, experts have warned scholars ‘to be constantly on the alert’ when dealing with early modern statistics, and to evaluate sources very carefully (Gieysztorowa 1971).

Therefore, it seems naive to expect that the normative reality recounted in the historical Polish-Lithuanian listings described in Ch. 2 would...

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