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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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General conclusions


The present study has taken the reader on a journey over a wide range of terrains, offering discussions of research frameworks and explications of broad theoretical formulations; analyses of life course, nuptiality, and household formation patterns; and depictions of the structural features of domestic groups and living arrangements across Poland-Lithuania. In the course of the project’s development, minute measurements of various phenomena in the census microdata have also been compared with the results of a computer microsimulation. In these concluding pages, we take a step back to offer a brief overview of the organization of this book, its main findings, and, finally, how the most important implications of these findings should be framed.

The present volume differs substantially from a range of recent influential studies on historical family forms. In contrast to works by such ‘armchair’ family researchers as M. Hartman or G. Therborn, who developed their sweeping historical-sociological edifices by remaking the primary research done by others, this particular book is based on meticulously reconstructed first-hand empirical material, and directly refers to this material in the basic interpretive and analytical stratum. The unprecedented quantity and spatial reach of this material, as well as its novelty, have in turn demanded that the reader become acquainted with the principles that guided the large amount of archival, computer processing, and analytic conceptualization work involved in the production of the present monograph. Both the structure and the scope of the book reflect these basic considerations.

The book...

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