Sources and Databases vs. Biological Approach in Demographic Research on Populations from Polish Lands in the 19th and Early 20th Centuries

Grazyna Liczbinska, Adam Mickiewicz University, Poznan

For 120 years the Polish lands were occupied by Russia, Prussia and Austria, who collectively had partitioned the country in the late 18th century. The Polish territories belonging to the three powers showed differences in the pace of economic development, cereal and animal production, level of medical care, health status and mortality rates, and the annual per capita income. Moreover, the partitioned sectors had their own procedures for registration of events and collection of vital statistics. Among the three powers, Prussia and the Prussian sector had not only the highest economic development but also the highest standards of administrative procedures, prescribing in detail how demographic events had to be recorded and reported. Hence this part of Poland had the most reliable vital statistics, which translated into the highest standard and quality of its databases. The main aim of this paper is to characterize the picture of fertility and mortality against the unequal political and socio-economic changes, the consequence of which were differences in the quality of life, medical care, ecological conditions as well as vital statistics collection, in Poland in the 19th and early 20th centuries. The particular objectives are the following: 1) to compare the reliability and validity of the vital statistics from three occupied sectors and to show how their imperfections translate into values of fertility and mortality rates; 2) to apply a biological approach with a deeper insight into demographic behaviour, taking into account the imperfection of historical statistics and sources. In order to address the above tasks data from the following historical sources were sourced: 1) parish registers for rural and urban parishes of various religious denominations; 2) individual municipal registers of inhabitants (domicile files of inhabitants) providing information on reproductive histories of families; 3) aggregated data on births, marriages and deaths from Prussian statistical yearbooks.

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 Presented in Session 76. Social and professional Trajectories as reflected in the new European databases