It has been over a year since the COVID-19 outbreak has been declared a pandemic and a public health emergency of global concern. While researchers in all disciplines and from all parts of the world have increasingly turned to the question of how we confront today’s unfolding epidemiological crisis, using broad historical lenses and a long empirical research tradition of historical demography can contribute substantially to this debate. With this in mind, they would like to announce that the 4th ESHD conference leading theme is
Human–environmental nexus in the past: understanding links between demographic variability, ecology and disease.
Participants are encouraged to engage with and link across three different streams of historical social science analysis:
- the diversity of historical demographic behaviour across space and time;
- the study of historical health, disease and morbidity conditions;
- and human-environmental interactions in the past.
The demographic diversity of historical societies has been expressed in a myriad of ways, but the factors and processes that shaped that diversity remain largely unknown. However, it has been long recognized that populations respond to their ecological contexts in multiple ways, by organizing and adapting their forms of living and behaviour given the environments in which they lived. Both demographic variability, as well as the ecological factors shaping it, may, together affect how populations and individuals responded to disease risk factors, the spread of pandemics, or various other forms of epidemiological crises. Multi-layered inter-dependencies between demographic structures, environmental factors and short- and long-term exogenous shocks thus created are, however, poorly understood and remain a puzzle to be addressed by research.
With this call, they would like to invite the members of the Society to address the relationship between historical demographic structures and processes, and environmental factors, health and disease, as well as addressing the mechanisms underpinning these interactions. They encourage the use of the most appropriate data and methods for modelling cross-sectional or longitudinal data and studying individual and collective responses to the combined effects of these forces in a spatio-temporal perspective. Some example research questions might be:
- How do environmental conditions affect demographic behaviour across space and time?
- What was its mechanism, its major drivers, and the latter’s interaction with socioeconomic, cultural, and other factors?
- How far does the demographic and environmental specificity of historical populations help us understand the different ways that they responded to external epidemiological stressors?
- Can the links between demographic variability, ecology and disease be explained in a universal model, or should we rather consider many geographically disparate relationship patterns and interactions?
They invite researchers to propose individual papers or complete session proposals focused on the above-mentioned topics. As usual, paper or full session proposals dealing with other themes in historical demography and family history are also welcome.