Centre for Advanced Study

at the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters

Historical Demography


Former 1998/1999 Social Sciences - Law

End Report

Today we all expect to live to an advanced age. In 1996, a newborn Norwegian boy has a life expectancy of 75 years, and a girl may even look forward to her 81st birthday, whereas in the 1820’s, life expectancy at birth was no more than 45 and 48 years respectively for the two sexes. That means that during the last to centuries, we have gained thirty more years of lived life, or the span of a whole generation.

The research group in historical demography will study the incipient decline of mortality in Europe in the period 1750-1900. Each researcher has their own project, and the different perspectives will hopefully shed new light on the problematics.

We regard the theme to be of special interest. Norway was among the very first countries in Europe where the traditionally high mortality began to fall. The decline took place in spite of Norway not being among the richest countries in Europe at the time, and in spite of rough living conditions and little developed health care. Hence, Norway’s leading position in the fertility decline in enigmatic.

Sources are abundant; on a national level, mortality statistics go back to 1735 and provide a solid basis for a description of development. Medical reports from the nineteenth century are another important source, and variables like food supply, hygiene, housing, working conditions and women’s position was considered.

During the year at CAS, researchers worked on studies of mortality decline for specific areas in Norway, Finland and the Netherlands,; they looked into medicalisation of childbirth in the late 18th and in the 19th centuries as a strategy for reducing both maternal and infant mortality; and they began constructing a database with the intention of analysing mortality decline.

The results of the studies and analysis will be published in various articles and books in the years to come.


  • Alter, George
    Professor Indiana University 1998/1999
  • Hubbard, William Henry
    Professor Em. University of Bergen (UiB) 1998/1999
  • Lee, William Robert
    Professor University of Liverpool 1998/1999
  • Pitkänan, Kari Jouko
    Assistant Professor University of Helsinki 1998/1999
  • Schlumbohm, Jürgen
    Dr. Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy 1998/1999
  • Thorvaldsen, Gunnar
    Technical manager UiT The Arctic University of Norway (UiT) 1998/1999
  • van Poppel, Fransiscus Wilhelmus A.
    Professor The Netherlands Interdisciplinary Demographic Institute (NIDI) 1998/1999

Group leader

  • Ståle Dyrvik

    Title Professor Institution University of Bergen (UiB) Year at CAS 1998/1999
  • Sølvi Sogner

    Title Professor Em. Institution University of Oslo (UiO) Year at CAS 1998/1999