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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. Genealogy of Eastern European difference


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1.  Genealogy of Eastern European difference

1.1  Symbolic geographies of East-Central Europe

Any attempt to construct a region represents more than just an objective exercise in spatial analysis and classification (Said 1978; Maxwell 2011a), and should be seen as inherently linked to shifting geopolitical perspectives, which are often tied to national identity. This has clearly been the case with various attempts at the symbolic geo-positioning of the eastern part of Europe. Scholars have long been arguing over what name should be given to the geographical space between ‘Germany and Russia’: ‘Eastern Europe?’ ‘Central Europe’? ‘East-central Europe?’ (Bideleux and Jeffries 1998, 8–25; Janowski et al. 2005; Tägil 1999; Todorova 2005; Troebst 2003; Dingsdale 1999; Dingsdale 2002,15–16). These naming practices, which are tied up with the very process of the formation of European collective identities1, have their own specific histories, and are associated with different worldviews and with different constellations of power, knowledge, and spatiality.

In this introductory section, we will briefly review these differing ‘histories.’ We consider this topic important because these spatial designations of the European east appear to correspond directly to the meta geographies of the eastern European demographic space discussed in the core of the chapter. In fact, it could be argued that the European regional constructs presented in the works of historical demographers, family historians, and sociologists did not arise in a vacuum, but were instead shaped to some extent by...

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