A Personal Account of the History of Historical Demography in Europe at the End of the Glorious Thirty (1967-1975)

  • Antoinette Fauve-Chamoux University of the Western Cape and Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales


Encouraged by her masters at the Annales School—historians Fernand Braudel and Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie, demographer Louis Henry from Institut National d’Etudes Démographiques (INED), and sociologist Peter Laslett from Cambridge—the author, a baby-boomer, experienced major socio-economic and cultural changes in family behavior and reproduction models induced in Europe by the revolutionary events of 1968 in Paris. In this essay, she presents a personal account of the history of historical demography in Europe, between 1967 and 1975, in other words at the end of the post-WWII Glorious Thirty period (1945-1975). She then became involved in the development of a global network that had been formed in 1960 in Stockholm, linking professional national and international associations and academic units in Historical Demography and History of the Family. This network spread quickly overseas during the following decades. The period under study was marked by the beginning of important behavioral changes in socio-economic contexts and attitudes to family life, gender and human reproduction. These major shifts were called the Second Demographic Transition by two Dutch demographers, inspired by French scholars. The year 1976 is identified as a major turning point for Historical Demography as a discipline, mostly through the creation of the Social Science History Association and the Journal of Family History, which brought new theoretical approaches and methodologies. A generation of productive researchers appeared with the end of the 20th century and the new millennium. They took advantage of an increasingly digitalized world to widely disseminate a rich store of knowledge about past population behavior gathered since the 1960s by their predecessors.