Historical Demography and Epidemiology: The Meta-Narrative Challenge

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Demography and epidemiology tend to analyse human processes in the aggregate. This article illustrates that definitions of demography and epidemiology provide some understanding of how they are typically used in medical history. The influence of demographic and epidemiological transition theories is discussed. The article mentions that extensive research into fertility behaviour in the past has dismantled many aspects of demographic transition and reveals that epidemiological transition has proved more durable in the face of empirical testing, but it is nonetheless problematically hidebound to a narrative of progress and modernization. This article also focuses on the complicated relationship between migration and health and is considered crucial for understanding patterns of population growth, health, and illness. Finally, it outlines some of the ways that innovative research on life-course experiences and famine demography has shaken the trees of long-held medical historical assumptions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Oxford Handbook of the History of Medicine
PublisherOxford University Press
ISBN (Electronic)9780191744006
ISBN (Print)9780199546497
StatePublished - Aug 25 2011


  • Demography
  • Epidemiology
  • Health
  • Medical history
  • Transition

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities(all)


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