Environment and demographic systems. Mortality and mobility in the French province of Dombes, from the XVIIth to the XIXth century

Guy Brunet, Université de Lyon
Alain Bideau, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS)

The French province of Dombes was, during past centuries, covered by artificial pounds, most of them built during the Middle-Ages, and known to be insalubrious. Just on the border of the plateau of Dombes, the small city of Thoissey is located on the bank of the river Saône, in a much healthier environment. We use data from the parish and the civil registers to study mortality and geographical mobility in a set of eleven parishes belonging to the Castellany of Thoissey and the Castellany of Saint Trivier. In the parishes surrounded by pounds, deaths are more numerous than births during most of the decades between the end of the XVIIth century and the beginning of the XIXth century. In some parishes, adult mortality is so high that one marriage out of three lasts less than five years, broken by the death of one of the spouses. On the other hand, the parishes located some miles away, close to the river Saône, have a positive balance between births and deaths. This permanent demographic deficit comes with a very important geographical mobility. This mobility is estimated by the proportion of men and women born in the parishes where they marry, and by the proportion of the deceased born in the parish where they die. Social structures and family relations are strongly affected by this original and long-lasting demographic system.

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Presented in Session 85: Historical epidemiology