To bring together scholars who explain historical phenomena using the methods of the social sciences

Family and Demography

This network addresses the lives of individuals, households, families and population in past societies using a variety of sources.  Our network also serves to discuss and develop historical methods, historiographies and the history of science and ideas related to family and demographic history.

Hideko Matsuo
Leuven University, Belgium
Mikolaj Szoltysek
University of Warsaw
Joana-Maria Pujades
Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona

Family & Demography network. European Social Science History Conference.
March 18 – 21, 2020. Leiden, The Netherlands.

Please send in your paper and sessions proposals via the conference registration form. Deadline April 15.
Already proposed sessions that you can send in a paper proposal for:

Session: Population and Family History of the Middle East and Africa
Organizer: Paul Puschmann, Radboud University, Nijmegen, the Netherlands
In terms of historical demography and family history, the Middle East and North Africa is an under-studied world region. This is mainly due to a lack of available source material. However, recently a wealth of new datasets, ranging from the digitized population censuses of nineteenth-century Egypt to the 1885 and 1907 Ottoman censuses of Istanbul, have become available. Currently, census materials for the early-twentieth-century Palestinian population are being transcribed and digitized at the American University of Lebanon, and there is still a wealth of population data to be explored from colonial and post-colonial times, including parish registers, civil registration, population censuses and tax registers. Papers are welcomed which deal with the (modern) population history of the Middle East and North Africa, including the history of ethnic minorities such as Christians and Jews. Topics for consideration include, amongst others, fertility, nuptiality, migration and social inclusion, social mobility, mortality, household composition and family arrangements. Priority is given to empirical papers with a quantitative approach, but qualitative and methodological papers will also be considered. Comparative studies are especially welcomed, and so are papers, which deal with a life course and/or gender perspective.
Paper proposals can be sent to

Session: Migration and Health
Organizer: Paul Puschmann, Radboud University, Nijmegen, the Netherlands
Ever since the 1980’s demographers and historical demographers have found evidence in a wide range of societies that the health and mortality of migrants consistently deviates from that of non-migrating populations. Overall, migrants enjoy higher life-expectancy and lower mortality risks compared to non-migrants. Several potential explanations for this healthy migrant effect have been put forward in the literature, including cultural and behavioral explanations. In a majority of studies the observed differences in mortality are at least partially explained by selection effects (at origin and/or at destination). The basic idea is that healthy people are more likely to move, while less healthy people are more inclined to remain where they are. However, it has also been hypothesized that the healthy migrant effect is caused by selective return migration of unhealthy, sick and elderly individuals (salmon bias hypothesis), and it has even been suggested that the healthy migrant effect is a statistical artefact. While some studies find evidence of a salmon bias effect, others do not. Moreover, it has been observed that there are considerable differences in health and mortality within migrant groups according to gender, age, ethnicity, religion, etcetera. Certain migrant groups actually experience excess mortality.
We welcome papers which deal with the health and mortality of migrants in comparison with non-migrants in historical settings. Priority is given to studies based on longitudinal data which allow to track migrants and non-migrants across time and space. Papers which deal with causes of death statistics are especially welcomed.
Paper proposals can be sent to

Session: Out-of-wedlock fertility and bridal pregnancies
Organizer: Paul Puschmann, Radboud University, Nijmegen, the Netherlands
Although historically it was in most societies the norm that children were conceived and born within marriage, large deviations from this norm have been observed. Western European societies saw a strong rise in out-of-wedlock fertility from the latter half of the eighteenth century on and illegitimacy rates were heightened throughout most of the nineteenth century, but reached again lower levels during the early twentieth century. In certain cities, including Stockholm and Vienna, out-of-wedlock fertility reached very high numbers – up to about one in two in the case of the Swedish capital, and the same can be said about certain rural regions, for instance, in South-Eastern Germany and certain parts of Austria. However, there were also cities and regions, which were much less affected. Although various explanations – some are complementary in nature others are competing – have been put forward for the observed variations in out-of-wedlock fertility across time and space (and across various social groups in terms of socio-economic status, ethnicity, religion, migration status, etcetera) much remains unknown about the causes and consequences of out-of-wedlock fertility and bridal pregnancies, as well as the intentions of the historical actors involved. Even less we know about the life course of the fathers, mothers, and the illegitimate children themselves. Were out-of-wedlock fertility and bridal pregnancies clustered among certain families? Was it transmitted from parents to children? What happened to the fathers, mothers, and the illegitimate children themselves? Were there significant differences in the life courses of those who were conceived (1) during, (2) before (bridal pregnancies) or (3) outside marriage (illegitimate births) in terms of fertility, nuptiality, migration and mortality behavior?
Papers are welcomed which deal with out-of-wedlock fertility and bridal pregnancy in historical settings. Both quantitative and qualitative approaches will be considered. Authors who use historical GIS and/or evolutionary perspectives are especially encouraged to submit a paper.
Paper proposals can be sent to

Session: Spatial aspects of historical demographic and family behaviour
Organiser: Mikołaj Szołtysek, Marie Curie/Polonez Research Fellow, University of Warsaw, Poland
Historical family demography is an inherently spatial subdiscipline. Yet, despite continuing interests in the geography of European demographic regimes and the rapid advances in the technology of spatial data handling, to date there has been few historical research on past demographic behaviour embraced by emerging geo-spatial data or even rudimentary forms of spatial modelling.
This session invites contributions from scholars working on all aspects of past demographic behaviour (households, living arrangements, marriages, life courses, etc.) and/or their correlates, in all parts of the world, and at all geographical scales, under the condition of paying explicit attention to the problem of spatial variation and spatial contingency in demographic behaviour. Papers using Exploratory Spatial Data Analysis (ESDA) or spatial regression models are welcome. Proposals using more traditional descriptive statistics with data mapping will also be considered if they show explicit interests in spatial patterns.

Session: Persistence of the past: are contemporary familial behaviours related to historical family structures?
Organiser: Mikołaj Szołtysek, Marie Curie/Polonez Research Fellow, University of Warsaw, Poland
Scholars generally contend that family behaviour and values represent “deep” cultural layers which are transmitted from generation to generation and move slowly over time. In ‘Family ties in Western Europe’, Reher (1998) posited that spatially bounded historical family patterns continue to exist contemporaneously, and suggested that those ‘familial geocultures’ may themselves have implications for the way society itself functions (Reher, 1998; similarly Therborn, 2004). Although some family history works seemed to have substantiated this observation by revealing a strong continuity of demographic behaviour, at least in some areas of Europe, the postulated historicity of family patterns was often taken for granted rather than explicitly tested.
The recent outburst of integrated census microdata and linked longitudinal datasets opens up unprecedented opportunities to explore these potential long-term trajectories more comprehensively. The panel intends to gather scholars analysing the various components of family organisation (e.g., marriage patterns, household structure, living arrangements, patterns of life course trajectories) over long stretches of time between past and present (20th century). Papers based on longitudinal populations registers and/or pooled time series of census microdata are welcome, same as those exploring the predictive power of historical family patterns for contemporary family behaviour and family values, both in Europe, and beyond. Micro-, meso-, and macro-level approaches are considered equally suitably.

Session: Social history in the imperial context: Explaining empire through sociological and demographic concepts/methodologies
Luc Bulten, Jan Kok & Paulo de Matos, Radboud University Nijmegen, The Netherlands - FCSH/NOVA University, Portugal
Historically, the domain of colonial and imperial history was largely organised through faculties specialised in the studies of the overseas territories of the European colonial empires. Particularly, but not limited to, the British imperial history was predominantly written by such imperial or colonial historians, who generally wrote political or economic histories of the expansion of their metropoles’ domains in the Americas, Asia, and Africa. Long was this the case until colonial history got shaken up by the orientalist and postmodern historians, writing from a more cultural perspective, in the eighties and nineties of the past century. This collective of writings, in hindsight often recalled as the subaltern studies, criticised and rewrote much of the histories of the European colonial and imperial endeavours with an emphasis on the impact of (orientalist) discourse and imperial political and military domination on local cultures in the colonised areas around the globe and the maleficent nature of European imperialism.
However important these studies were for the reconsideration of these black pages of both European, local and global histories, they have both contemporarily and recently been criticised for their discourse-oriented and polarising style of history-writing. The narrative of coloniser versus colonised became ever more dominant in these studies, leading to a certain lack in source-driven historical methodologies. In the wake of these critiques, and the recent revitalisation of colonial and imperial histories – again particularly in British historiography, often cited as the New Imperial History paradigm – more and more studies on empires and colonial history have focused on the social, institutional and demographic characteristics of such societies. These data driven studies, both qualitative and quantitative, have as such been increasingly reliant on concepts and methodologies from the social studies, such as anthropology, sociology, demography, and more. During this session we would like to start a dialogue between historians of empire who, in one way or another, implement such instruments borrowed from the social sciences to explain colonial and imperial societies, their compositions, and their mechanisms.

Session: The apple does not fall far from the tree. Health, height and mortality in comparative intergenerational perspective
Organizers: Björn Quanjer, Kristina Thompson, Jan Kok
Over the last two centuries, enormous increases in health took place across almost all populations on the planet. This is particularly evident in industrialized Europe and North America. It may be that in these countries, after roughly five generations, populations are close to reaching their upper limits of good health. In their seminal work The Changing Body, Floud showed how technology could accelerate growth for consecutive generations through what they termed ‘techno-physio evolution’. Yet not all parts of (historical) societies might have benefited from improved health equally. We would like to go beyond Floud et al.’s perspective and understand how the health transition may have magnified or minimized inequalities across and within populations.
In this session, we therefore will study the transmission of health inequalities across generations. Cumulative (dis)advantages are typically studied at an individual level. Yet, there is an increasing amount of evidence that shows these (dis)advantages reverberate across families and time (e.g. Wilson & Shuey, 2019). Various mechanisms are likely at play, including (epi)genetics and socio-economic sorting. We are particularly interested in characterizing ‘health’ in different ways to add a comparative character to this session. Do these trajectories have different impacts when characterizing health, for example, as mortality, or as height? We welcome papers exploring the transmission of health inequalities quantitatively, and across various temporal and geographical contexts.

Session: Impact of wars on families
Organizer: Helena da Silva (IHC-NOVA/FCSH)
Chair: Antoinette Fauve-Chamoux (EHESS)
Discussant: Antoinette Fauve-Chamoux (EHESS)
Wars had a direct impact on families, changing marriage rates, ways of marrying, separation and divorce rates, but also influencing illegitimacy rates and the number of children born outside of marriage. During a conflict, those who stayed on the home front were affected in their everyday lives, namely by the changing of working patterns and reproduction habits (age of marriage, pregnancy, abortion, etc.).
However, wars did not end with the armistice; their aftermath had a direct impact on family structure and functioning. Discharged soldiers returned to their homes sick, wounded, maimed and/or traumatised by the war, which directly affected their families. Some veterans could become violent; others were unable to get or maintain a job. There was also the issue of disease transmission – not only sexually transmitted diseases but also others like tuberculosis – and veteran suicide. In many of these cases, mothers, wives, and daughters would become caregivers due to the lack of State support or institutions to receive these men.
Not excluding any conflict nor state, this session aims to look at the impact of a large spectrum of wars on family structure and functioning, and how they also affected families during times of peace. We welcome proposals to draw, in this session, a comparative approach to this situation in different countries.

Session “Experiences of infertility before and during the era of reproductive technologies”
Organizer: Yuliya Hilevych, Faculty of History, University of Cambridge
It is sometimes argued that infertility was invented with reproductive technologies. As the rapid medical advancements around infertility treatments have been rapidly advancing since 1950s, the history of medicalisation and reproductive technologies in themselves has also advanced in the recent decades. However, less is still know about individual experiences infertility in relation to and beyond reproductive treatments and technologies, and as such about a social history of infertility more generally.
This session invites papers that explore infertility across different geographical contexts during the 20th century. Contributors are invited to address the role of nuclear and extended family, and community in shaping these experiences, as well as the role of broader factors related to population politics, reproductive health counselling, and grassroots activism among other factors. Methodologically, the session aims to bring together contributions drawing on different sources such as oral histories and written testimonies, as well as more creative ways of unravelling these – often silent – experiences and histories such as through non-fictional writing, media and magazines, and self-help handbooks among others sources.
Please send your abstract and questions to the session organiser at

Session: Single Parents and Single Parent Households
Organizer: Mary Louise Nagata, Francis Marion University
Single parents could be mothers or fathers who were either widowed, divorced, or never married. Examination of single parents can reveal many aspects of family, marriage and household co-residence in new ways. Parental co-residence, or not, of adult children, especially married adult children, has been a major way to characterize household structure and the focus of debate about norms of masculinity and power relations between generations as well as gender. Did single parents live and gain support from other kin, or did they live alone with their children? What about never married single parents? How much did providing for a single widowed parent contribute to the parental co-residence of adult children, particularly after marriage? What was the contribution of single parent support to household complexity? How did gender play into these and other questions regarding single parents and the households they lived in? I welcome papers from any region and any era of history

Session proposal: Women and Family Property.
Organizer: Beatrice Moring
Traditionally the prevailing view has been that women have been disadvantaged in the distribution of property. Legislation and custom favouring the transfer of property to the eldest male in a sibling group was actively attacked by 19th century law makers, the most prominent example being the Code Napoleon. Many of the reforms, however, did not aim to improve the situation of women, but introduce equality between men. Many legislative reforms in the 19th century and before illuminated a divide between rural farming groups and the urban bourgeoisie, between traditionalists and supports of ideas of individualism and the benefits of unrestricted capitalism. The aim of this session is to illuminate both views on the issue of property ownership by men and women and the actual position of women in receiving, holding and passing on family property in the past.
Chair/Discussant: Antoinette Fauve Chamoux, EHESS,
Lloyd Bonfield, New York Law School,
What the Legacy Duty (1796) Can Tell Historians About Collateral Female Inheritance?
Robert Sweeny, Memorial University of Newfoundland,
Margareth Lanzinger, University of Vienna,
"Widows and Relatives: Competing Property Interests
(Tirol 1600-1800)"
Beatrice Moring, University of Helsinki/Cambridge,
Women, law and property transmission in the Nordic countries

Session: Insularity, Isolation and Female Strategies of Family Continuity over Generations in Global Perspective (16th -20th centuries)
Organizers: Antoinette FAUVE-CHAMOUX (FR) with Violetta HIONIDOU (UK)
Contact: Antoinette FAUVE-CHAMOUX, Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, Paris, FR
In the context of insularity or isolation of a population, the session will consider models of female strategies for family continuity over generations, not only in time of war and crisis (socio-economic, sanitary, political crises including catastrophes, epidemics, famines, high mortality, migration or exodus etc.), but also in time of peace and prosperous periods, all this under various regimes.
The organizers expect panelists from various disciplines and countries to present the complex experience of family formation and household continuity so that the session will be an exciting challenge, comparing models of family strategies over generations in historical space and time.
The session will focus explicitly on female agency in order to keep going the family, as arranged marriages, remarriages, adoption, circulation of children, sex selection, cohabitation, births out of wedlock, migration etc. We intend to highlight the way families, thanks to females, adapt their strategies of reproduction, applying or rejecting old practices or imposing new practices, in order to achieve their goal of family continuity."
We recruited already five papers, 3 on Asia (Korea = Lee Donggue et al., China & Korea compared = Zhu Mei, + Olry on Korean living in China), one on Azores (de Matos, Anguita & Paiva, and one on Greece (Hionidou).

Session: The SHiP historical cause-of-death coding system: an important step towards international and comparative health research
Organisers and chair: Angelique Janssens and Alice Reid
Commentator: Joana Pujades Mora
The SHiP-network aims to study in a comparative fashion the dynamics of mortality change in high level disease environments in port cities across Europe. The network focuses on port cities for which we have individual-level cause-of-death data for the entire population for approximately the period 1850-1950. These are truly unique datasets which enable us to go beyond what was captured in highly-aggregated national statistics based on extremely limited 19th century disease classifications. The network comprises 30 scholars from 25 universities across Europe. An important step towards comparative research is the development of a joint international historical coding system for causes of death. The SHiP historical cause-of-death coding system is based on the ICD-10 coding system, the advantage is that this allows for long term trends and changes to be investigated. The ICD10 system is however adapted to also allow the incorporation of historical designations in such a way that this information will be preserved for analysis. In this session we will present the SHiP coding system itself as well as the results of the application of this system in different countries across Europe. This will make visible the complications but also the strengths of our coding tool. For more information on the SHiP network see:
1. Laura Debyser and Isabelle Devos
Causes of death in the port city of Antwerp, 1910. A comparison between the SHiP system and a historical classification system
2. Hilde Leikny Somerseth
Towards a harmonized historical coding system: Causes of Death in Norway
3. Maria Hiltunen
Applying the SHiP coding system to cause of death data from the Demographic database in Umea, Sweden
4. Angelique Janssens and Evelien Walhout
Testing the SHiP coding system on 19th century Amsterdam individual-level cause-of-death data
5. Barbara Revuelta-Eugercios, Anne Løkke and Helene Castenbrandt
The SHIP coding system applied to Danish cause of death data in the Link-Lives project: burial records and death certificates