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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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4. A note on time and cohorts


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4.  A note on time and cohorts

‘Nothing new happens in this foreclosed universe; as the forefathers lived, so the grandsons do’ (Jeleńska 1891, 486).

‘Current-status data […] can be informative if interpreted correctly, and sometimes they are the only data available’ (Preston et al. 2001, 89)

As has been made clear in the preceding chapters, the data used in this study are essentially cross-sectional in character. That is, the individual-level information they contain is static, and thus refers only to the current status the individual possessed in the social, family or demographic structure of the local population. Strictly speaking, this ‘snapshot-like’ character of the sources offers no opportunities to observe individuals as they move through their life-cycle ‘careers’, and severely hinders our ability to capture the evolving character of many crucial family demographic behaviors (see Kok and Mandemakers 2010; Kok 2007).

Nevertheless, as the reader will notice, two of the core forthcoming chapters (Ch. 6 and 9), as well as several sections of chapter 10, are structured as if the analyses they contain reflected some aspects of group developments and individual life trajectories. This sense of the passage of time is also reflected in the language employed, as we talk about the transition to adulthood, leaving home, household formation, or the developmental cycles of domestic groups. Why are we pursuing an analysis that is longitudinal in intent but cross-sectional in execution?

The above-mentioned limitations that...

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