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A Global History of Historical Demography

Half a Century of Interdisciplinarity

Antoinette Fauve-Chamoux, Ioan Bolovan and Sølvi Sogner

At the XXIst World Congress of the International Committee of Historical Sciences (ICHS/CISH) in 2010 in Amsterdam, the International Commission for Historical Demography (ICHD) decided to write an overview of its own history. Fifty years had gone by since the CISH XIst World Congress in Stockholm 1960, when historians took the first tentative initiatives to create a wholly new interdisciplinary commission for historical demography, a meeting place for a budding discipline where researchers in letters and science could meet, exchange ideas, cultivate and develop a new field. This book is the outcome of that decision.

Demography, past, present and future is a common concern for all inhabitants of this planet. The variation is great, however, with regard to sources, social and political conditions, state of the art, technological development, national and local initiatives. In the course of half a century many changes take place. Keeping abreast of the gigantic streams of information and innovation in the field is demanding, even more so for a discipline with global dimensions and ambitions. The book makes fascinating reading, and preparing it has been a rewarding and thought provoking experience. The thirty-seven articles in the book represent as many different stories.

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27. Historical Demography in Norway 1960-2010 (Sølvi Sogner)

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Historical Demography in Norway 1960−2010 Sølvi SOGNER1 History is about people, and population studies have always been a central issue for historians. However, historical demography as a specific discipline in history and a technical term associated with a certain methodology – the family recon- stitution method – dates back to the World Congress for historians in Stockholm, 1960.2 Then the French demographer Louis Henry (1911–1991), presented his new method to historians worldwide, demonstrating a new avenue to reliable, comparable information about the demographic behaviour of populations in the past. Population in the pre-statistical era could be studied with the methods of modern demography applied to parish registers. Church records of baptisms, bur- ials and marriages – so plentiful from the early modern period onwards – had been underexploited by historians. When converted into demographic events, however, these ecclesiastical events opened access to a meticulous analysis of the family. Expert advice on how to proceed was offered to the un-initiated (Fleury and Henry 1956; Henry 1967). Historical demography was the brain child of a demographer, but historians warmly welcomed the possibilities of attaining new historical insights. The mo- ment was highly propitious. Quantitative methods and techniques in general were en vogue among historians. The Henry method was a new tool with a re- markable precision, applicable even at the level of families and small popula- tions. How does the balance sheet look fifty years later? There have been ups and downs, reorientation and adaptation. Disciplinary border lines have at times been blurred...

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