A Social History of Nineteenth-Century France

By Roger Price | Go to book overview
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The demographic indicators


The nineteenth century saw the beginnings of a major social revolution. The transformation of economic structures made possible considerable improvements in human living conditions and changes in attitudes to life, the effects of which were clear in the decline in death and also in birth rates. In addition, the town replaced the village as the main place of residence. Figures 12 and 13 show where people lived at the beginning and towards the end of the century. Table 13 shows the manner in which the overall population is estimated to have increased. Clearly there was a tendency for the rate of population increase to decline almost continually. France was distinguished among the industrializing nations of the nineteenth century by its relatively low rate of population growth. This meant that in comparison with underdeveloped countries today population pressure on economic resources was far less intense.

Within the period 1815-1914 three major phases of evolution have been identified (see Figure 14). The first, from c. 1815 to c. 1848, was characterized by slow economic change. Although agricultural productivity rose, in many regions rapid population increase maintained dietary standards at low levels. This was essentially a period of continuity with the second half of the eighteenth century, with both high (although declining) death and birth rates. It was

Table 13 Population increase (1750-1911)
Year Population (millions) Year Population (millions)
1750 21 1861 37.4 *
1801 27.3 1872 36.1*
1821 30.5 1881 37.7
1831 32.6 1891 38.3
1841 34.2 1901 38.9
1851 35.8 1911 39.6
Note: affected by territorial changes.

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