Population and environment in northern Italy during the 16th Century

Guido Alfani, Bocconi University

In Italy, parish registers were widespread already at the beginning of XVIth century. Nevertheless, such sources have been under-used for centuries preceeding XVIIIth; this probably explains why there is not a general consensus about how to interpret 16th Century Italian demographic dynamics. Such divergences imply different convictions about the relationship between population and resources. On the base of 164 series of baptisms celebrated in Northern Italy parishes and adopting a comparative perspective, I progressively evaluate the demographic weight of environmental factors, such as placement in lowland, mountain or coastal areas; urban or rural environment; for rural areas, different settlement patterns and crop regimes. My aim is to define of which kind was the relationship between population and resources: was it Malthusian, “Boserupian”, or something else? The data suggest a very complex situation, and that different population models are better apt at explaining demographic trends in different social and environmental contexts.

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Presented in Session 74: Mortality and reproduction

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