Family, Demography, Quantitative History

Since the beginning of human culture, home and family have been key arenas where historical processes have unfolded. Family life, in turn, has always been shaped by local and global historical dynamics. Many historians at Minnesota investigate history through family relationships (for example, changing gender, sexual, and generational relations), or through demographic shifts (such as socio-economic patterns and trends in the age at marriage or birth and death rates, for example) or through the roles played by family ideals in political life, for example during modernizing revolutions and during the Cold War. We work on family history in all global regions – the ancient Near East, medieval through modern Europe, Latin America, colonial and modern Africa, and East and Southeast Asia. We draw on a wide range of historical sources including archaeological evidence, fiction, art and oral history as well as legal codes, census records, and memoirs.

Historians who work with census materials have developed huge data bases housed in the Minnesota Population Center, an interdisciplinary center where researchers develop methods for studying quantitative evidence for the historical study of the family. Family life, often thought of as a relatively unchanging realm of merely private and local interest, in fact has played and continues to play a major role in world history.

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