This research is funded by the National Science Centre, Poland (POLONEZ fellowship UMO- 2016/23/P/HS3/03984). This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement No. 665778.
The way contemporary European families are organized differs markedly, and it is likely that this variation has important consequences for the status of women, intergenerational relations, and for human capital formation. However, tracing the historical roots of this familial variation has never been successfully concluded. Marred by a lack of large-scale historical data and insufficient methodologies, past research has never culminated in an omnibus reconstruction of European historical geography of family patterns. Neither the causes of the familial variation in the past, nor the possible family influences on wider societal outcomes have ever been systematically tested on a European scale.
This project consists in pioneering analyses of the patterns, causes and implications of European variation in historical family systems, which are tackled via a first systematic comparative approach, using Europe’s largest public-use collections of historical census microdata. Drawing on these previously unavailable data, the project addresses the three broad questions of what these major variations were, what caused them, and what difference they could make in the European context, from the Atlantic coast of Europe to the Urals, between 1700 and 1918. Analysis of the nearly pan-European dataset will offer a multifaceted reconstruction of family patterns, seeking to understand how they clustered in space and changed over time. By asking whether these patterns stemmed from differences in socioeconomic, demographic, or environmental conditions, or whether they had a deeper “socio-cultural” basis, the project will explore potential links between the historical family geography and Europe’s other internal divisions. Given that families and households constitute fundamental units of economic, demographic, and social behavior, could variations in family patterns contribute to developmental inequalities between the societies of Europe? Overall, this interdisciplinary project will elevate the discussion of the geography of European families to entirely new heights by revealing nuanced spatial patterns of family systems, carefully anchoring this variation in historical contexts, and by unraveling its societal implications on a hitherto never attempted scale.
"Spatial distribution of Mosaic and NAPP data used in the project"
The cornerstone of the proposal is a harmonized dataset of historical public-use census microdata from Mosaic and North Atlantic Population (NAPP) projects, comprising 14 million individuals living in 3.3 million households. These data, grouped into 300 regional populations from Iceland to the Urals, will be analyzed with advanced historical demography and geospatial methodologies to provide measures of all crucial attributes of family systems across multiple settings between 1700 and 1918. Thanks to the georeferenced nature of the Mosaic/NAPP data, a thorough contextualization of the spatial-structural variation in family systems will be carried out by linking family/demographic information at the regional level with various topographical covariates (e.g., soil quality, land-use, terrain ruggedness and population density), as well as with institutional-cum-cultural characteristics (e.g., the presence of serfdom; descent rules; religion, ethnicity, and urban-rural distinction), including time-period. Major analytical tasks will proceed in three consecutively intertwined stages corresponding to the three major research questions above. The 1st stage – PATTERNS – provides a comprehensive investigation of the variation in family organization across 300 regions of historic Europe in terms of life course and marriage patterns, household structures and individual living arrangements; maps these out in space and time, and strives to establish spatial patterning in their occurrence across the continent and over time. The 2nd stage – CAUSES – links these fine-grained demographic data to geospatially located contextual information and uses spatially-sensitive multivariate regressions to investigate how variations in environmental, cultural and political-economic spheres affected different aspects of regional family systems across different areas. Finally, the 3rd stage – IMPLICATIONS – explores channels through which family variation could produce developmental disparities across European societies. It does so by looking at gender- and age- inequalities in the life course and residential behaviour, and by investigating the relationship between cross-cultural differences in familial organization and regional disparities in human capital levels in the past.
Expected impact of the research project on the development of science, civilization and society
This project addresses key societal challenges from a scientific perspective—i.e., cross-cultural variation in family patterns, their configurations in space and over time, and their influences on developmental inequalities. The project’s synthesis will elevate the study of historical family patterns in Europe to entirely new heights: it will fill the evidentiary gaps for many previously under-researched areas and yield key breakthroughs leading to a radical re-thinking of previous mainstream ‘histories of family’. The new detailed geography of family patterns will become an omnibus reference study for social and family historians, as well for demographers, sociologists and economists alike, providing a fresh reservoir of policy-relevant insights into the persistence of and changes in basic patterns of human organization and their causal factors. It will also form a crucial building block for future comparative studies covering the whole of Eurasia.