Historical Demography and Epidemiology: The Meta-Narrative Challenge

Graham Mooney

in The Oxford Handbook of the History of Medicine

Published in print August 2011 | ISBN: 9780199546497
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in History

Historical Demography and Epidemiology: The Meta-Narrative Challenge


Demography and epidemiology tend to analyse human processes in the aggregate. This article illustrates that definitions of demography and epidemiology provide some understanding of how they are typically used in medical history. The influence of demographic and epidemiological transition theories is discussed. The article mentions that extensive research into fertility behaviour in the past has dismantled many aspects of demographic transition and reveals that epidemiological transition has proved more durable in the face of empirical testing, but it is nonetheless problematically hidebound to a narrative of progress and modernization. This article also focuses on the complicated relationship between migration and health and is considered crucial for understanding patterns of population growth, health, and illness. Finally, it outlines some of the ways that innovative research on life-course experiences and famine demography has shaken the trees of long-held medical historical assumptions.

Keywords: demography; epidemiology; transition; health; medical history

Article.  9491 words. 

Subjects: History

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