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date: 27 January 2020

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter examines the major contours of population change in early modern European history. Rates of population growth, or decline, are explained by documenting the underlying trends in fertility, mortality, and nuptiality as they shifted across both time and space. Particular attention is paid to the population collapse at the start of our study, the ‘crisis of the seventeenth century’ and to the ‘demographic transition’ that dominates the end of the period. In considering both history and historiography, the chapter surveys the quantitative and theoretical bases upon which the discipline of historical demography rests, and suggests reasons for its strong links to economic history. Finally, the demographic model proposed by Thomas Malthus and widely utilized by historical demographers is called into question for both its own logic as well as for the inconsistencies with the historical data amassed over the past half century.

Keywords: Demographic transition, fertility control, family reconstitution, European marriage pattern, Malthus, diminishing returns, seventeenth-century crisis

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