In the early nineteenth century, eastern Belgium was the first region on the European continent to follow the British example of industrialization based on textiles, coal, and iron. Rural areas were faced with old problems and new opportunities. On the one hand, they faced intensified population pressure due to population growth and the decline of proto-industrial production. On the other hand, new industrial jobs in growing cities beckoned rural workers. Examines the range of demographic responses to economic stress in this transitional period through an analysis of two very different rural societies. The correlations between prices and demographic behaviours in the early nineteenth century mostly disappeared after 1850. Rural people were able to shift from a ‘defensive logic’, which families used to protect themselves against hard times, to positive choices intended to take advantage of new opportunities.
Keywords: Ardennes; Belgium; economic stress; fertility; Hervé (pays de); marriage; migration; mortality; Sart–lez–Spa
Chapter. 13507 words. Illustrated.
Subjects: Economic History
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