Historical family systems and the great European divide: the invention of the Slavic East
AbstractIn 1940, almost two years into World War II, the book, “Agrarverfassung und Bevölkerung in Litauen und Weißrussland”(Agrarian constitution and population in Lithuania and Belarus), was published. The habilitation thesis of the young German historian Werner Conze, the book was an extensive study of premodern family patterns of the peasant serf population in Lithuania from the 16th to the 18th centuries. In an approach that was innovative for its time, Conze used a type of historical source which, up to that point, had not yet received a lot of interest, namely, quantitative data derived from original inventory lists of historic estates. The analysis of the data led Conze to detect a difference between West and East. The comparison emphasised the cultural divide between the Germans and the Slavs to the East by postulating smaller family sizes throughout the western or German-influenced part of historic Lithuania, and larger families with more complex structures throughout the Slavic parts of the country. Thus, Conze also suggested that population growth in the Lithuanian west had been restrained, while the Lithuanian east had experienced abundant population growth. Conze’s scientific insights remain present in today’s historical-demographic literature, and have become an essential building block of any argument in support of the validity and persistence of East-West differentials in family systems in East-Central Europe. Because of this study’s continued importance, it may prove useful to re-examine “Agrarverfassung und Bevölkerung,” looking at its auctorial and ideological context, its methodological procedures, and its empirical content. Our critical assessment of some of Conze’s basic assumptions reveals serious shortcomings in his analysis, which resulted from his tendency to make unwarranted inferences from non-representative and circumstantial evidence, and from his underlying motivation to search for German-Slavic differences. We will discuss the extent to which the pervading notion of the East-West divide in historical East-Central Europe must be revised in response to these shortcomings. By uncovering the inadequacies of Conze’s contribution, we hope to pave the way for a truly scientific understanding of familial characteristics of Eastern Europe, and to end the perpetuation of certain stereotypes of Slavic populations.
Download InfoIf you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.
Bibliographic InfoPaper provided by Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany in its series MPIDR Working Papers with number WP-2009-041.
Length: 34 pages
Date of creation: Dec 2009
Date of revision:
Contact details of provider:
Web page: http://www.demogr.mpg.de/
Belarus; Germany; Lithuania; demographers; family forms; historical demography;
Find related papers by JEL classification:
- J1 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics
- Z0 - Other Special Topics - - General
This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:
- NEP-ALL-2010-01-10 (All new papers)
- NEP-HIS-2010-01-10 (Business, Economic & Financial History)
- NEP-TRA-2010-01-10 (Transition Economics)
You can help add them by filling out this form.
CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.
- Mikolaj Szoltysek, 2011. "The genealogy of Eastern European difference: an insider’s view," MPIDR Working Papers WP-2011-014, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany.
- Siegfried Gruber & Mikolaj Szoltysek, 2012. "Quantifying patriarchy: an explorative comparison of two joint family societies," MPIDR Working Papers WP-2012-017, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany.
For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Peter Wilhelm).
If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.
If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.
If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.
If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.
Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.