École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales and Institut National d’Études Démographiques Paris.
Translated by Jonathan Mandelbaum.
On all these points, see Dupâquier (1984), Le Mée (1995), Rosental (1997), Sharlin (1977), Saito (1996), and the introduction to Viazzo (1984). The enthusiasm faded in the following decade. A victim of diminishing returns and the wider discredit attached to quantitative history, historical demography was ultimately judged to be limited and repetitive. For an early expression of these criticisms, see Burguière (1974).
An article published later (Hyrenius, 1958), in English and in more propitious circumstances, retrospectively made the author (himself a continuator of German historical genealogy) a “precursor" . See his analysis in Terrisse (1975). Henry then made contact with the Swedish demographer (Fonds Henry, art. 25, letter to Hyrenius, 7 January 1959), who later visited INED.
After his marriage, Jean Bourgeois added his wife’s name to his own and became known as Bourgeois-Pichat.
On this network of École Polytechnique alumni, see Girard (1986, p. 102). On the Fondation Carrel and its “Demography" team, see Drouard (1992) and Rosental (2003).
Their main reference work was the treatise by Lotka (1934 and 1939); their basic textbook, Michel Huber’s Cours de démographie et de statistique sanitaire, published in several volumes before and after the war.
Sauvy’s eventual change of heart was reluctant (Lévy, 1990, pp. 96ff and 107ff.). Lévy (p. 125) states that Alfred Sauvy did not acknowledge a change in fertility behaviour until 1950, and believed that population growth would remain modest. For an analysis of the discussion on the statistical reality of the phenomenon and its interpretation, see Néel (1994). For a retrospective chronology of the post-war fertility recovery, see Desplanques (1988).
“We were therefore still expecting a decline in the number of births and no one would have been surprised to see it happen in 1949" (lecture of 20 March 1950, Fonds Louis Henry, art. 11).
The preparation of these reports contributed to Henry’s training. To the still novice researcher, it imposed a format and a list of characteristics deemed relevant to the description of a population. Girard (1986, p. 108) noted the parallelism between the plan that Fleury and Henry (1956) suggested to historians for their multi-secular parish monographs and the organization of the situation reports. The irony of a model for long-period history — championed by the Annales — being partly rooted in quarterly observations will be obvious.
For reasons discussed in Rosental (2003). They are related to the history of the institutionalization of demography in France since 1939, when the High Committee on Population was established. From those troubled years there emerged a small coterie of administrators (Pierre Laroque, Jacques Doublet, Emmanuel Rain) and scientiﬁc mandarins (Robert Debré, Henri Laugier) who were convinced that demography as a science would validate the appropriateness of a pronatalist policy in rational terms. Providing “a beacon for action" , in Sauvy’s famous phrase, seemed to them a natural extension of the analysis of populations.
See, for example, Sauvy (1949b) and many articles and book reviews published in Population in the late 1940s.
A good example of the Institute’s position is provided by an article collectively signed by “INED" and published in 1956 in Population under the title “La limitation des naissances en France" (Birth Control in France). Its purpose was to assess the effects on the birth rate of a gradual liberalization of the 1920 Law on the advertising and distribution of contraceptive means. The article’s approach respected the norms of scientiﬁc caution and institutional reserve, and concluded in favour of an easing of the law. At the same time, the article repeatedly took as given that a decrease in births or in the population’s reproduction rate would be an unfortunate development. The article was written by Alfred Sauvy, Alain Girard, Paul Vincent, Louis Henry, and Jean Sutter, according to a memorandum by Alfred Sauvy of 19 March 1956. INED’s director suggested that Institute researchers who disagreed with the article should be given one page in the journal to express themselves in their own names, while avoiding “religious or purely moral views" (Fonds Henry, art. 8). No staff member took up the invitation.
“Projections retained some predictive value" only for a “relatively short" period (letter of 18 February 1955 from Louis Henry to F. Closon, Director General of INSEE, Fonds Henry, art. 17).
In his letter to Hajnal, Henry describes forecasts as “basically empirical, as are the extrapolations by hunters and anti-aircraft gunners." He counted on experience to improve their range. Hajnal’s reply is dated 25 January 1956.
In his letter to Hajnal of 29 December 1955, Louis Henry stated that since the experience of demographic phenomena “could result only from the study of the past, I believe, as you do, that one should spend more time on that study than on computing complicated projections or forecasts. Yet I am not sure that these long and apparently unproﬁtable studies are always well regarded; the quest for proﬁtability remains very strong and I fear that the desire for immediate apparent usefulness may often cause people to prefer a deluge of supposedly precise calculations to a slow elaboration of methods capable of improving actual effectiveness — but only later."
These public lectures are worthy of interest because they spell out hypotheses, concepts, and methods that were taken for granted in the author’s scientiﬁc publications. As public speaker, Louis Henry also expounded his conception of the demographer’s profession and even his wishes for the future of the population, on which he usually remained silent in his scholarly publications.
See in particular Wicksell (1937) and the latter’s description by Ohlin (1981, 1st. ed. 1955, pp. 44ff). Corrado Gini also published papers on marital fertility (see for example Gini, 1934a and 1934b) as did Pierre Depoid for France.
The same reasoning was applied to the United States by Shryock (1950) — who confessed a forecasting error by the Bureau of the Census — and to the United Kingdom by Carr-Saunders et al. (1951) and Notestein (1949).
For Henry, “a close analysis shows that there were no solid theoretical grounds for studying the female rather than the male population" (Fonds Louis Henry, art. 11, p. 10). This view had been common since the interwar period (Lotka, 1939, p. 89; Hajnal, 1947a).
In a household that practises contraception, “what matters is neither age nor the duration of marriage, but only the number of children already born" (Henry 1954b, p. 9).
The 1930s had seen a pronounced interest in the relationship between nuptiality and economic cycles. See Thomas (1925), Glass (1937) and Ohlin (1981, 1st ed. 1955).
Thus the sessions of the 1954 World Population Conference in Rome distinguished between fertility in the industrialized countries and in the developing countries, but did not mention countries engaged in the “demographic transition" (Benjamin et al., 1955, p. 15).
Which, between the wars, was referred to as “the productivity of marriages" . See Huber (1939, pp. 106-26) and Landry (1945, pp. 360ff).
For example, the authors of the “Indianapolis survey" in the U.S. (Kiser and Whelpton, 1949; Kiser and Whelpton, 1953), and of the 1946 Family Census in the U.K. (Glass and Grebenik, 1954). Witnessing this relative scarcity, Louis Henry, ca. 1953, considered looking up Raymond Pearl’s observations on the fertility of recently married couples but abandoned the idea because they seemed biased (Fonds Henry, art. 17).
This link was developed by Lucien March (1859-1933), director of the SGF until 1920 (Desrosières, 1985; Thévenot, 1990; Carol, 1995). It was revived under the Occupation at the Fondation Carrel, whose “Regent" was interested in the subject (Rosental, 2003).
Although he noted an improvement in an article devoted — signiﬁcantly — to family statistics (Henry, 1953d). On the detailed content of family statistics by year, see Depoid, 1943, pp. 159-62; Bunle, 1937; Huber, 1939, pp. 106-26.
“It is especially when a particular change in legislation is being contemplated that the need for proper information and the gaps in existing statistics are keenly felt (Henry, 1953d, p. 473). Henry (1951, p. 428) listed the data lacking in France for applying the tools of demographic analysis.
Concurrently, Hyrenius (1948, p. 291) reached an identical conclusion after tabulating the countries where information on the fertility of couples was available.
Letter of 26 September 1953, from Louis Henry to the Norwegian Central Statistical Ofﬁce, asking for details on forthcoming yearbooks.
Letter of 31 August 1953, from Louis Henry to the Director of the United Nations Statistical Division, P.J. Loftus, on the disappearance of the table of live births by parity after the 1949-50 demographic yearbook.
However, it was only in 1954 that Louis Henry accepted that a long-term change in fertility was beyond dispute (letter from Henry to Jean Bourgeois, 6 March 1954). The conclusions of the 1954 World Population Conference show that the issue had not been settled by then. See Bulletin international des sciences sociales, 1954, no. 6, p. 769 and the discussion between E. Grebenik and Colin Clark in Benjamin et al., 1955.
Louis Henry had been using the term since at least 1950. He employed it in a talk to describe eighteenth-century France. See “Le problème démographique français, n.d. , pp. 2-3, Fonds Henry.
“The adjective ‘natural’ is not ideal but we prefer it to ‘physiological’ since the factors inﬂuencing natural fertility are not purely physiological (Henry, 1961, p. 81). On this point see also Leridon, 1988 and Caselli, Vallin and Wunsch, 2002, esp. part II.
(Henry 1952, p. 367; Henry 1953a, p. 143). At least three letters between the two men contained a detailed discussion of earlier articles by Gini and procedures for calculating fecundability (letters from Louis Henry, 26 March and 10 April 1952, and a reply from Gini on 31 March).
Whereas the former Fascist statistician was interested in the biological components of fertility as measures of the biological capabilities of populations, Pearl, at the end of his career, used them to assess the comparative efﬁciency of contraceptive practices—a crucial issue in the U.S.-U.K. context of the 1930s-1950s. See Pearl, 1939.
(Henry, 1951, p. 431). Before him, Paul Vincent, his mentor in demography, had taken a close interest in the subject, in particular for the study of mothers of large families who had been awarded the Cognacq-Jay Prize.
In a letter to Frank Lorimer of 29 October 1956, Louis Henry referred to the notion of probability of conceiving, which established the link between the Anglo-American concept of pregnancy rate and the Italian concept of fecundability, to which he subscribed. For Henry, their divergence had less to do with their theoretical grounding than with “the transition from this concept to measurement; they seem to me to have been at the origin of the discussions between the Italians, particularly Gini, and the Americans; these remained sterile for lack of sufﬁciently comprehensive theoretical studies. On the criticisms of Gini between the wars, see Ipsen, 1996 and Rosental, 2003.
Contemporary anthropology has condemned the static view underlying the notion of “customs used by Henry and many of his contemporaries (Lorimer, 1954). This culturalism, moreover, holds as homogeneous a series of very large and diverse areas. When Henry (1947) sought points of comparison with North African fertility, he turned to Palestine, for the sole reason that it was also a Muslim country. In late 1953, Louis Henry was asked to give L. Guibourge of the Union of Family Associations (UNAF) his opinion on “the inﬂuence of family allowances on the Muslim population of Algeria. For this purpose, Henry cited a local study conducted in Iran in 1950. He concluded on that basis that the Algerian populations “live in a natural [fertility] regime and that, in consequence, it would be “utterly baseless to believe that family allowances will increase the marital fertility of the Muslim women of Algeria. Lastly, Louis Henry tended to attribute the fertility of developing countries to cultural factors, in contrast to the economic explanation reserved for the rich countries.
Henry (1951) referred to the divide when analysing the fertility of Czechoslovakia, the only country for which he could ﬁnd statistics on legitimate births by parity and birth interval. The demographer compared the country’s regional populations with one another, then with France. He looked for constants in the birth-interval distributions of these populations, where the resort to contraception varied considerably.
In a memorandum of 22 October 1953, Henry gave Alfred Sauvy estimates of Bantu demography in South Africa. For the mortality rate, he hesitated between “that of Japan in 192630 or that of India in 1921-31. The annual number of live births per 1,000 women aged 15-49 was, he claimed, “of the same order of magnitude as in Balkan Europe in the late nineteenth century.
See Henry’s assessment of Henripin (1954), concerning the demography of eighteenth-century French Canadians (see below): “I became fully aware of the leap into the past that this study had made possible when, in my answer to a letter from abroad that was requesting information on natural or quasi-natural fertility, I mentioned in reverse chronological order Norway in 1875 and French Canadian marriages contracted between 1700 and 1730. Thus, until this study, there was next to nothing for the period before 1875 (Fonds Henry, art. 11, talk to a public of historians).
Goubert was close to the Sixième Section of the École Pratique des Hautes Études, where he was elected directeur d’études in 1955. See Goubert, 1996; Harding, 1983; Rosental, 1997.
See Goubert, 1982, 1st ed. 1960, pp. XLVI-LIII. The journal Bibliothèque de l’École des Chartes had published several articles on the subject since the nineteenth century (see Levron, 1959). In 1902, the Congress of Learned Societies had devoted one of its inquiries to parish registers: Henry was aware of its conclusions, thanks to a review prepared by his assistant d’Adhemar. Le Mée (1995) has analysed the role of archivists in the development of historical demography.
Letter from Louis Henry to Albert Choisy of Geneva, 26 October 1956. This cooperative effort produced a book (Henry, 1956).
For example, Louis Henry knew that, for Geneva, “the mortality study will be imprecise, but the fertility study will be good (letter to J.M. Lechner, 17 December 1955). Likewise, the report by d’Adhemar (a copy of which survives in the Fonds Henry) asserts that the usable genealogies “are typically limited to noble or prominent families.
For Henry, the ﬁrst in “a series of fortunate encounters that have altered my views and drawn my attention to parish registers (Fonds Henry, lecture, n.d., art. 11).
Louis Henry, lecture, n.d., Fonds Henry, art. 11, p. 3.
Henry (1953d, p. 474) justiﬁed the use of the word “family in preference to “couple [ménage], which, he argued, means people “living under the same roof.
The family reconstitution forms and the Fleury–Henry manual, however, were designed for non-specialists. Henry and Fleury had written initial form-ﬁlling guidelines in the spring of 1954, based on Fleury’s observations during the extraction of data from the Dommartin registers (letter from Louis Henry to Marcel Reinhard, 10 May 1954, Fonds Henry, art. 26).
For example, as the duration of data processing was often too long to allow the completion of a one-year university thesis (mémoire), the stock of family reconstitution forms had to be carefully managed. Until October 1958, Louis Henry had an assistant, the historian Pierre Valmary. Michel Fleury had acquired experience in teamwork organization during his spell at the Archives de la Seine immediately after World War II. He had supervised the “unemployed intellectuals who were ﬁling the huge collection of bankruptcy ﬁles.
Abbé Hudry is one of several examples. A teacher in a private (catholic) school, Life Secretary of the Académie de la Val d’Isère, he had learned about the Henry method from an account in the Revue d’histoire économique et sociale. Having just published a demographic monograph in the Mémoires of the local history society, he wrote to Alfred Sauvy on 9 March 1956, after realizing that his “method [was] not up to par.
For example, M. Hours of the Archives du Rhône had enlisted for Louis Henry a former lathe operator, a country priest, and a police inspector (letter of 11 January 1955). He stressed the need for a clear method to prevent them from being discouraged.
Meeting since 1953 under the chairmanship of Louis Chevalier, the Sub-Commission’s more prominent members were Marcel Reinhard, André Armengaud, and Jean Meuvret. It passed on to Louis Henry the offers of services from academics, students, and volunteers.
In addition to Marcel Reinhard, then teaching in Caen, examples include Jacques Godechot and Frédéric Mauro in Toulouse, Étienne Juillard in Nancy, and Portal and Trénard in Lille. Louis Henry also received unsolicited applications, for example from Jean Ganiage, who wrote from Beauvais on 12 December 1953. Ganiage held the agrégation in history and was on assignment from the secondary-school system to the National Centre for Scientiﬁc Research (CNRS), preparing a thesis on Tunis. He later collaborated with INED on a regular basis.
See the correspondence in which Louis Henry and Pierre Valmary gave students instructions for preparing their thesis for the diplôme d’études supérieures (DES) (Fonds Henry, art. 26).
Letter from Louis Henry to Marcel Reinhard, 22 November 1954, Fonds Henry, art. 26; letter from Marcel Reinhard to Louis Henry, 27 October 1958. Goubert (1973, p. 318) notes instead that “even at the basic maîtrise [M.A.] level, we practically have to repress demographic and para-demographic enthusiasms, but this testimony dates from the peak period of historical demography.
In a memorandum to Alfred Sauvy of 23 September 1953, Louis Henry suggested launching a pilot survey, in particular to gauge the cost of data extraction.
The discovery in the Fonds Henry of a correspondence between Pierre Goubert and Louis Henry enables us to correct the chronology that we suggested in an earlier article (Rosental, 1997), in which we dated Pierre Goubert’s espousal of the Henry model to the late 1950s. In fact, immediately after Henry’s attacks against Goubert, the latter took steps to meet the demographer and seemed “ready to work with INED […]. But he manifestly knows little about demography (memorandum from Henry to Alfred Sauvy, late April 1953). Goubert consulted Henry about methodological issues but rebutted Henry’s 1953 article (Goubert, 1954), after which the two resumed contacts on a regular basis. By contrast, the correspondence preserved in the Fonds Henry conﬁrms the tensions between the demographer and the historian René Baehrel. The latter’s attacks against population historians prompted historians to unite in Henry’s defense. The common front was visible at the 1963 Congress of Liège, the ﬁrst major scientiﬁc meeting of historical demographers (see Actes du colloque international de démographie historique de Liège, 1963, esp. pp. 34, 45, 85, 89, 93).
From the 1980s onward, the link between the Henry method and historical demography loosened, and there has been a gradual return to a broader but less uniﬁed vision. Population history has evened the score with historical demography.
Alfred Sauvy missed no opportunity to send Louis Henry the brief notes on parish registers and other nominative sources that appeared in L’Intermédiaire des chercheurs et des curieux, a magazine for antiquarian and scholarly pursuits that Sauvy read assiduously.
Above all, Sauvy allowed Louis Henry to beneﬁt from his extensive network of contacts.
Letter from Louis Henry to Abraham Stone, New York, 17 September 1954. These measures concerned female sterility, which created a bias increasingly denounced today.
Letters from Henry to Frank Lorimer, 28 September 1954 and 29 October 1956.
In a letter of March 18 1957 to Christopher Tietze, whose article on the Hutterites he had just read, Louis Henry expressed his satisfaction at the availability of precise data “on a population which is known not to practise family limitation," as this would lessen the reservations of those who “have predetermined ideas on fertility in the absence of family limitation" and who “imagine that the lack of family limitation leads to a birth a year for most of married life; admittedly, they are historians rather than demographers" .
This subtitle refers to Fabian (1983), who explores the use of time/space correspondences in anthropology.
(Henry 1953-55, p. 33). This relationship between the western past and the non-western present being conceptualized as symmetrical, Third World demography made a reciprocal contribution to historical demography. See Louis Henry’s letter to the Indian demographer M. Sovani: “our paths converge, and I have repeatedly consulted your publications in connection with a study on the demography of a group of families of the Genevan governing class and its changes since the mid-sixteenth century" .
Letter of 25 September 1953, from Louis Henry to C.J. Martin, Director of the East African Statistical Department in Nairobi.
In 1954, using the data then available, Louis Henry compared the Scandinavia of the 1870s with Asia. Observing that Asian fertility was lower than that of Northern Europe, he assumed that “these differences may be due to biological factors, social factors, or a combination of the two. We may ask whether the importance given by European culture to the conjugal family may not have tended to increase its fertility and thus partly offset the fact that this culture tended to delay marriages" (letter to Frank Lorimer, 28 September 1954). Seven years later, Henry (1961) conﬁrmed that the differences between non-contracepting populations are signiﬁcant within Europe, but even more so with other continents.
On 25 September 1953, Louis Henry wrote to C.J. Martin (see note above) about a UN publication on the population of Tanganyika. Its completed fertility (4.4 children per woman) seemed low to him in connection with its early and high nuptiality and “marital fertility rates of the order of those of historical Europe" . Henry conducted similar correspondences with other demographers and colonial administrators.
In a letter of 25 May 1955, Louis Henry explains to L. Bastiani, Head of the General Statistical Ofﬁces of French Equatorial Africa in Brazzaville, how to estimate survival rates and “by comparing them with historical European populations, infers an order of magnitude of infant mortality" . From 1954 to 1956, Louis Henry corresponded with P. Cantrelle, Head of the Anthropology Section of the Institut Français d’Afrique Noire, which depended on the General Government of French West Africa. In a letter of 23 December 1954, Louis Henry amended the form designed by Cantrelle for the study of local fertility. He added “intermediate cells" to tabulate, in particular, the number and duration of birth intervals. Such cells turned up later in Henry’s “family reconstitution form" . Henry gave Cantrelle other advice on sampling procedures and checks on the quality of response. Other examples conﬁrm Louis Henry’s visibility as a specialist in colonial demography and the interactions with his know-how as historical demographer.
In a memorandum of 23 September 1953, Louis Henry informed Alfred Sauvy that M.L. Diaz-Gonzalez, of UNESCO’s Social Sciences Department, had “hinted that the subject might interest UNESCO and that the organization might include it in its 1955-56 programme" . In a letter of 26 June 1956 to Charles Braibant, Head of the French National Archives, to whom he was sending a copy of the Fleury–Henry Manual, Alfred Sauvy wrote: “Incidentally, a committee of United Nations experts meeting in Paris and New York in February 1954 has issued a special recommendation to governments to study the history of European populations at the start of economic development" .
From the ﬁrst quarter of 1956 to spring 1957, Jean Bourgeois-Pichat, then assigned to the UN, regularly asked Louis Henry for his opinion on a survey conducted in partnership with the Population Division in the Indian state of Mysore. Everyone was aware that Henry’s knowhow derived from his experience as historical demographer (Fonds Louis Henry, art. 17).
In a letter to Frank Lorimer of 29 October 1956, Louis Henry wrote: “[Work on historical data] has strongly inﬂuenced my thinking; I have dealt with good-quality material, conﬁned to a narrow sample but yielding far more detailed data than modern statistics do. Later, on several occasions, I had to analyse the signiﬁcance of the results and perform statistical tests. That’s fairly exceptional in current demography, where one works on large groups. I’ve also had the opportunity to push the analysis further than one usually can. I realized that even with small numbers one often obtains signiﬁcant differences; the drawbacks of small samples are more moderate than I thought, whereas their advantages exceed what I could have hoped for. […] By pushing the analysis beyond the usual practice, I’ve encountered difﬁculties of interpretation; to try to overcome them I’ve had to resort to mathematics; the importance of theoretical analysis seems even greater to me than before" .
See the article entitled “L’INED doit-il être réformé ?" (“Should INED be reformed ?" ), Le Monde, 23 January 1971.
List of 26 October 1956, Fonds Henry, art. 17.
(Notestein, 1982; Sauvy, 1947; Sauvy, 1949a; Tabah and Sauvy, 1954). The preliminary discussions at the 1954 World Population Conference ofﬁcially referred to these categories (science and politics, intellectual rigour, or effective inﬂuence of the commission) (Bulletin international des sciences sociales, 1954, no. 4; Eugenics Quarterly 1954, no. 2). Tabah and Sauvy (1954) were apprehensive about the possibility that “the fear of lapsing into political quarrels and losing their objectivity would lead scientists to conﬁne themselves to abstract issues, thereby sacriﬁcing the true objective, namely, improving the human lot" .
Derived from the work of Frank Notestein and Kingsley Davis, transition theory elevated general empirical trends to the status of law. Between the wars, many authors — including Adolphe Landry in France—had developed a similar scenario (see Szreter, 1993, note 16, p. 694, who also expresses surprise that the theory has survived its many refutations).
Alfred Sauvy saw this attitude as a sign of the economic vigour of the socialist countries, and predicted their economic victory over the United States. Aron (1983, vol. II, p. 429), in retrospect, thought it would be “cruel to reproduce" the assertions that accompanied this forecast (“Communism is an immense test of truth in the long term and of freedom on the installment plan" ).
See the account by P.R. Cox in the article by Benjamin et al., (1955), as well as Revue de l’Institut international de statistique, 1954, no. 1-3. The UN also played a major role through its statistical publications.
This notion was consistent with Alfred Sauvy’s proposals in Landry, 1945, pp. 382ff, and the emergence of psychosociology as an adjunct to demography (Girard and Henry, 1956). Greenhalgh (1996, p. 40) analyses this transition from culturalist and globalizing approaches to considerations of individual usefulness.