HHIA05161U HIS Changing bodies, changing choices: mortality, fertility and health transitions - Denmark in a global context 1750-2014

Volume 2014/2015
Module I-VI [MA Programme, 2008-Curriculum]
Module I-VI [MA-elective Programme, 2008-Curriculum]
BA-level [Internal BA-elective for BA students of History]
Module T4 (Subject element HHIB10501E) [BA-elective studies, 2007- and 2013-Curriculum]
Module T5 (Subject element HHIB10511E) [BA-elective studies, 2007- and 2013-Curriculum]

Changing bodies, changing choices: mortality, fertility and health transitions - Denmark in a global context 1750-2014
The last 300 years in European history have comprised huge changes in most intimate aspects of people’s lives: whether and how to control the number of children you had, in which way societies and parents chose to dispose of unwanted infants , when to expect the first menstruation, which illnesses you faced, what aging early in life meant, and how common for people of all ages was to die.

All these changes happened in close connection with great economic and political changes that also affected peoples’ life. And they it were part of a population revolution. On the one hand, it meant the largest increase in population in the history of humanity –from around 700 millions in 1700 to over 7 billions in 2000. The true revolutionary content is not, however, that increase but the complete change in the way people lived, in their bodies and the choice available to them. On the one hand, the pattern of disease changed dramatically, with a reduction of the otherwise common experience of infectious diseases –tuberculosis, pneumonia, smallpox or diarrhoea were part of the common experience. This, combined with better nutrition, resulted in an increase of more than 10 centimetres in the average height of Europeans. On the other hand, mortality declined and, in fact, in a few generations life expectancy more than doubled, and both orphanhood and child death are no longer common eventualities. Running parallel immense changes in the choices available to individuals happened: marriage would be no longer determined by social norms and tied to reproduction, and reproduction itself has passed from occupying a 70 to 14% of women lives. Women in many countries can now choose the number, the timing and the sequence of their births. Births out of wedlock, divorce, re-marriage and, thus, complex households are common in our societies. The levels and dimensions of contemporary international migrations, triggered by the increase population growth, have changed the appearance of continents.

This course will explore these changes in connection to the wider developments in society by combining perspectives on the level of study –macro studies track changes over time and space, while micro studies analyse the changing circumstances of individuals and their life chances. It will also provide students with the theoretical and methodological tools to understand historical processes (be it economic, political, intellectual) in the context of the population who lived and experienced them, including our contemporary society, by bringing to history approaches from a variety of disciplines –demography, sociology, geography, social, economic and cultural history. The point of departure will be the Danish experience to swiftly move to place Denmark within the life-changing processes that have shaped modern Europe.

This course is better suited for oral examinations, but written assignments will also be possible for students who have exhausted their oral examination chances. Throughout the course, students will also be expected to contribute short written assignments (1-2 pages) and short oral presentations.

Course objectives (clarification of some of the objectives stipulated in the curriculum):
Students after the course will be able to:
• describe the causes and consequences of the major changes in the components that shape people’s lives (mortality, fertility, nuptiality, morbidity, migration, etc.)
• demonstrate a broad knowledge of the key issues and research traditions in the study of the population of historical Europe
• explain and discuss specific aspects of individual’s life events (mortality, fertility, etc) in relation to sex, socio-economic status and region
• identify and discuss the theoretical and methodological challenges in the study of historical population trends
• evaluate critically the contribution of different disciplines to the topic of population change.

We will use as point of departure Massimo Livi-Bacci’s The population of Europe, a history (Wiley-Blackwell, 2000), which needs to be read before the start of the course and will be discussed in the first lessons. Additionally, books and readings for inspiration and a detailed reading list for the course will be readily available before the start of the course through Absalon.

Group instruction / Seminar
  • Category
  • Hours
  • Class Instruction
  • 56
  • Total
  • 56
Type of assessment
Other under invigilation
Criteria for exam assesment