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Population Change in Europe

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Length: 1298 words (3.7 double-spaced pages)
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Population Change in Europe

Historical background: until recently, European was bearly able to
sustain itself (carrying capacity concept). Frequent famines, plagues
etc. Ensure that population growth was slow before early modern period
(say, mid-18th century). In 14th century (Black Death) population
actually decreased by 25-33% in nearly all parts of Europe. In fact,
pandemics of bubonic plague continued in various places until the 17th
century (Italy 1657). In Ireland there were major outbreaks of famine
and cholera until well into the 19th century.

Modern rise of population begins after 1700s and is without precedent
after 1740s. Rates of growth themselves increased until early 20th c.

Essence: great and sustained fall in mortality

high birth rates for sustained period

Consequence: large excess of births over deaths during much of period
1750-1900, producing high natural increase.

High out-migration (thus partially defeating Malthus' predictions)

Peak: late 19c. With growth rates of 1 - 1.5% p.a. Emigration started
in north-east Europe and moved in wave towards south-east as effects
of agricultural change (but there was no "agricultural revolution")
and industrialisation were brought home. Exception: France, where
population growth was much less rapid than elsewhere, from early in
the 19th c. French emigration was thus very low.


Changes in agriculture, transport, commerce, technology, urbanisation,
social patterns, health and hygiene all improved "standard of living"
- but did they cause population rise??

Increases in productivity which Industrial Revolution made possible
were essential as high population could not othewise have been
sustained, but they did not cause population growth. Most likely
cause: mortality change.

First Stage (18th c.) not especially unique except for elimination of
"crisis" death rates brought about by famine and plague (such death
rates were as high as 200/1000): worst rates were now 30/1000 or
40/1000. By 1900 this had dropped to 15 or 20/1000. Reasons:

· advances in medicine, public health (mention nursing and connection
with warfare change after developing "mass" wars of Napoleonic
period), living conditions

· better transport - helped to eliminate local food shortages

· improvement in diet

However, death rate had already started to drop before these changes
took place. Moreover the rise of agricultural output in England, for
instance, did not keep pace in 19th c. with population increase - food
imports increased (1846 Corn Law Repeal). Food output increases seem
to have been caused by, and not the cause of, population increase -
e.g. acreage was increased. Abolition of commonage was often the only
way to achieve "improving" approaches to agricultural production.

Elimination of "crisis" death was general in 18th c. Europe - but pop.
growth rates as a result are arbitrary and different by region (see p.
40) - .45% in France to almost 1% most places, to 3% in Hungary
(Ireland also very high).

However the continuation of increased population growth in 19th c.
depended not on "crisis" reduction but on further lowering of "normal"
death rate. This was best sustained in a society where changes in
agriculture, commerce and industry were taking place. Best example:
England. In this perspective, French population grew more slowly
because the conditions to encourage more rapid growth did not exist.
Societies where population increases exceeded growth of agricultural
and commerical economy subsequently experienced increased mortality
Hungary 1788-9, 1816-7, Bohemia (increase death rate 17890-1809) and,
although not mentioned, Ireland. One may therefore argue that Malthus
was not wrong.

Geographical patterns of change (p. 40): nw Eur. First - drop below
30-40/1000, followed by central, eastern, southern Europe. Sw, Eng
first, France slower, then Au-H, Fin, Ger, NL, followed by med.
countries. Major factor: infant mortality.

Cultural factors; changes in average age of marriage, expectations of
family size, age/sex selective migration patterns, birth control.
Cultural change lagged behind economic change: hence big rise. One
should also note differences in countries where conditions are
otherwise similar e.g. Flemish/Waloon difference follow language

FRANCE: a unique case. Drop in birth rate (not fall in births) begins
by 1770s. France did have industrial revolution but did not experience
population growth. Obsession with natalité as a result.

Sweden, England: high birth rates (35/1000 CBR) until 1870s. Then
Germany, then rest of Europe (eve of WW1 e.e. states were>38/1000,
med. and port. 32-35/1000).

WHERE did highest population growth occur?? Cities tended to grow
faster than rural areas even though birth rates were lower and death
rates higher. Main factor: rural-urban migration. Population did also
increase in rural areas except France (hence 20th century concern with
désertification). By final years of 19th c. rural population
everywhere was in decline or static.

Two industrialised, urban belts of high population density emerged
(these were not totally new patterns). This is the origin of the
modern "banana and crescent": the two major development zones in

Zone 1 (banana) Southern UK, NL, Ruhr valley, Rhine valley, Strasburg,

Zone 2 (crescent) West-East: Northern France, Ruhr (intersecting Zone
1), eastwards to Carpathians - elongated zone of mining and
manufacturing and fertile ag. zones.

Zone 3 (less prominent) Northern Italy

Lesser Zones: South Wales, Glasgow-Edinburg axis, Hamburg, Zurich,
Lyons, Madrid, Barcelona, Rome.

Mention differentiation within ag. sector as well: e.g. market
gardening and other high-intensity production in Paris basin and

Urbanisation was the over-riding factor. 1800 Europe had one city with
1m. inhabitants 23 with 100,000+ 1900 London 4m.+, Paris, Berlin,
Vienna, St. Petersburg, Moscow, Hamburg. 135 cities of 100,000+. Total
population of these cities: 5.5m. 1800 - 46m. 1900. +2.2% p.a.
compared to European average of 0.7% p.a. Key area: crossing point of
two axes Rhine-Ruhr area. Dortmund, Essen, Duisberg, Dusseldorf +6%
p.a. 36,000 1850 - 1.2m 1870.

20th c.

Urban and industrial growth during 18th c. And 19th c. Fixed broad
outlines of population distribution in western Europe and these broad
patterns have persisted.

Core zone: as before. Reflect mineral deposits (coal and iron) and
easy access to transportation. Populaton density>250p/km.

However, important changes are now taking place in details of pop.
distribution. Conditions which established earlier pattern are no
longer the same. Communications and transport infrastructure and
energy and resource bases are now quite different - moreover, some of
the traditional energy sources are gone. So have been government
responses - e.g French, Norwegian regional policies (technopoles and
remote area subsidies) - new possibilities open up. Dominance of
traditional model is not inevitable.

Demographic transition is now complete - indeed we may be in a "second
demographic transition". European population is static or in decline.
Is this connected with lower rates of productivity and economic
growth? No clear answer - although Ireland at present is an
interesting case in point it doesn't prove any rule. We do not know at
present what will be the long-term effect of an ageing society with
few babies. My concern here is to explore spatial aspects of question.

19th century core is still there (one should not forget capital
accumulation and the "cultural" role still played by great cities as
centres of consumption and cultural production). These core areas have
continued to grow faster than rural areas. However, some expansion of
core city concept to eastern/southern Europe. Rapid expansion also of
Scandinavian cities after 1900 combined with decline in
southern/western France - northward shift in centre of gravity
although this was more than offset for continent as a whole by med
region changes.

1970 14 cities 1m.+ (3 a century earlier). 95m. (30%) Europeans lived
in 292 cities of 100,000+.

Changes: Absolute dominance of city. By first third of 20th c. more
than half of Euroopean pop. lived in towns of 2,000+. North-east to
south west again. 1975 - in west, only Portugal had not reached this

Ireland: population decline until 1961. France: 1830s saw pop. decline
beginning in south and west (Massif Central, Pyrenees). Elsewhere
absolute decline is recent (post WW2). Highlands and Islands, Wales,
rural Scandinavia, FRG n.e. borderlands, Italy, central Iberia etc.
Often over short distances - nearby towns etc.

1960s - growth of largest w.e. cities has slowed. Medium-sized
provincial towns are enjoyed renewal (Limerick?). Upper/middle classes
moving to suburbs and small towns (home counties of UK). Effect of
automobiles on cityscapes.

Selective decline of certain industrial areas - s. Wales, n.e.
Britain, Belgium. Hence shift from CAP to ERDF, ESF etc. National and
EU policy try to halt this drift - limited success.

Migration to cover labour deficits also important - D, CH etc.

General trends of population distribution (as said above, and in spite
of two wars) have not changed greatly. Main factor behind all this has
been the move from primary to secondary sectors. Growth now in
tertiary (services) sector, with new possibilities of distance-free
economic activity, offer new horizons. Lower overheads and wage costs
may bring change. Examples: out-sourcing by American firms in Ukraine,
rural Ireland; counter-urban migration; EU Structural Policy including
transport and telecoms infrastructure; ex-urban shopping malls; "edge

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MLA Citation:
"Population Change in Europe." 18 Apr 2014

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