Jack A. Goldstone

in The Oxford Handbook of the Ancien Régime

Published in print November 2011 | ISBN: 9780199291205
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in History


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This article focuses on demographic trends during the Ancien Régime. During the Ancien Régime, the upper limits of population size appear to have remained unchanged for many centuries. Thus the peak population within the modern borders of France at the beginning of the fourteenth century, before the Black Death, was probably between eighteen and twenty million people. Some historians of France have suggested that, while population had its ups and downs, the same basic economic and demographic limits persisted across the Ancien Régime —an histoire immobile. It is certainly true that the same basic conditions of peasant landholding, family formation, mortality-determined population growth, and a society whose output was limited by the basic inputs of land and human and animal labour persisted across, indeed defined, the demography of the Ancien Régime. Yet to the people who lived through this period, conditions were far from constant; indeed they usually seemed to be rapidly changing.

Keywords: demography; Ancien Régime; population size; peasant landholding; family formation; mortality; population growth

Article.  8304 words. 

Subjects: History

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