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The group runs a range of seminars.

The Cambridge Group for the History of Population and Social Structure - seminar series

Research seminar series run by the Cambridge Group for the History of Population and Social Structure.
The support of the Trevelyan Fund (Faculty of History) is gratefully acknowledged.

Sandwiches and fruit will be available from 12.45pm.

Convenors: Leigh Shaw-Taylor (, Romola Davenport ( and Alice Reid (

There are no forthcoming seminars at present. Please check back here later.

You may wish to view the archive of previous seminars.

Graduate Workshops in Economic and Social History

All talks take place on Mondays at 12.30 pm in Room 5, Faculty of History, West Road.

Convenors: Alex Wakelam (amfw2) and Jacopo Sartori (js2214).

There are no forthcoming seminars at present. Please check back here later.

You may wish to view the archive of previous seminars.

Quantitative History Seminar

Supported by the Centre for History and Economics and the Trevelyan Fund (Faculty of History).

Sandwiches and fruit will be available from 12.45 for a 1pm start.

Convenor: Leigh Shaw-Taylor (

There are no forthcoming seminars at present. Please check back here later.

You may wish to view the archive of previous seminars.

Additional seminars of interest to Campop members

Additional seminars of interest to Campop members.

View the archive of previous seminars.

# Thursday 26th October 2017, 5.00pm - Dr Lluís To Figueras, Universitat de Girona
Cloth consumption and commercialisation in the Western Mediterranean before the Black Death
Venue: Old Library, Darwin College

During the thirteenth century a large amount of textiles made their way from the manufacturing centres of Flanders and the north of France towards the Mediterranean cities. The cloth trade has been analysed by economic historians chiefly as part of a commercial revolution led by Italian merchants. New evidence (bridal trousseaus recorded in notarial registers from thirteenth-century Catalonia) shows cloth as a key element of the commercialisation of rural society. Flanders and northern France were producing luxury textiles as well as coarse and relatively cheap woollens that were distributed through a network of local markets and retailers (drapers) specialised in selling foreign cloth along with local fabrics. Changes in the patterns of consumption related to colour and quality of fabrics triggered a social awareness on clothing as a means of social differentiation. Cloth became crucial not only as a way to single out the clergy and nobility, but also to differentiate the wealthier from the poorer peasants and artisans. Investment in garments not only explains the success of a dense marketing infrastructure across southern Europe, it also stimulated improvements in the textile production in those areas. Several small towns in the medieval Languedoc and Catalonia tried to emulate northern textile centres by welcoming foreign specialist-dyers in order to improve the quality of their products. By the beginning of the fourteenth century Mediterranean fabrics were able to compete with the woollens from northern Europe. Despite the century before the plague, being considered a period of scarcity, in some areas of southern Europe at least, peasant households purchased textiles of a variety of origins and qualities and as a consequence they made a substantial contribution to labour specialization and the development of local manufactures.

# Thursday 2nd November 2017, 5.00pm - Professor Jane Whittle, University of Exeter
The gender division of labour in Early Modern England: a new approach with new findings
Venue: Old Library, Darwin College

This paper presents the main findings of a Leverhulme Trust funded research project on ‘Women’s work in rural England, 1500-1700: a new methodological approach’. The methodology used aims, as far as possible, to mimic modern time-use surveys, by collecting incidental data about the types of work activities people were engaged in from court documents. In doing so it moves away from conventional approaches to the historical division of labour, which have relied either on didactic literature or records of wage labour. It also deploys a definition of work derived from Margaret Reid’s third party criterion, as an activity that could be replaced with purchased goods or services. The project has collected information about 4300 work tasks undertaken by men and women from three types of court document (church court depositions, quarter sessions examinations and coroners’ reports) from the southwestern counties of Cornwall, Devon, Somerset, Wiltshire and Hampshire. Initial analysis shows that women dominated housework and care work, as we might expect, but their involvement in other areas of the economy was also high. Using figures that compensate for the under-recording of women’s tasks, women carried out 37% of agricultural tasks, 44% of tasks in craft production, 44% of food processing tasks, and 51% of petty commerce. Together housework and care work made up only 26% of the work tasks recorded for women. The paper will these findings, making comparisons with other similar studies of Sweden and SW Germany for the early modern period.

# Thursday 9th November 2017, 5.00pm - Ian Kumekawa, Centre for History and Economics
The first serious optimist: A.C. Pigou and the politics of welfare economics
Venue: Old Library, Darwin College

The Cambridge economist A.C. Pigou was a founding figure in the economics of welfare. In the years since his death in 1959, Pigou has been figured as a pre-war liberal, a centrist, and even an anti-Keynesian conservative. This paper re-evaluates the politics of Pigou’s economic thought during Pigou’s lifetime. His enduring ideas about welfare were generated largely before World War I, in a period of Liberal optimism about the ability of economic science and the state to improve societal wellbeing. In the wake of World War I, Pigou’s own optimism abated. However, with the rise of the Labour party’s fortunes during and after World War II, Pigou returned to the hopefulness of his early work, reinvigorated by changes he saw around him.

# Thursday 16th November 2017, 5.00pm - Dr Siân Pooley, University of Oxford
The children of the state? The social impact of welfare in modern Britain
Venue: Old Library, Darwin College

This paper examines the social impact of private and public investments in the early years of people’s lives in twentieth-century Britain. We know a lot about the politics behind the creation of pioneering welfare provision since the 1880s, much of which sought to preserve and improve the lives of the nation’s young. These services included: legislation and organisations to protect children from abuse and neglect from the 1880s; infant welfare services, free school meals and medical inspections from the 1900s; and following the Second World War the payment of family allowances (from 1975 child benefit) and free healthcare. We know far less about the social impact of this care on children and their families. This on-going research examines the experiences of children and the impact of changing welfare policies in Britain since the 1880s. In seeking to place a spotlight on children’s embodied and subjective experiences, this project uses archived case files to consider not only how welfare provision was used, but also how these uses – sometimes unintentionally – contributed to sustained and cumulative inequalities. The approach taken to studying archived case files is primarily qualitative, seeking to bring together microhistorical studies of subjectivity, epidemiological approaches to the life-course, and the attention to power dynamics afforded by histories of gender and of childhood. The findings discussed in this paper focus principally on previously unexamined case files relating to children born immediately after the Second World War.

# Thursday 23rd November 2017, 5.00pm - Professor Kevin Schürer, University of Leicester
Using 'big data' to explore household and family structures in England and Wales in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries
Venue: Old Library, Darwin College

This presentation will explore the rise of ‘big data’ in historical research with specific reference to the Integrated Census Microdata database (I-CeM) covering England, Scotland and Wales for the period 1851 to 1911 and examine the potential (and problems) of such data. It will focus on a study in household and family structure for the period covered by the I-CeM data and provide examples of where ‘big data’ can add to our knowledge in comparison to more traditional localised studies – and where it can’t.

# Thursday 30th November 2017, 5.00pm - Professor Ewout Frankema, Wageningen University & Research
Why Malthus wasn’t African. Reviewing explanations and implications of low population densities in pre-1900 Sub-Saharan Africa
Venue: Old Library, Darwin College

Low population densities and open land frontiers, or alternatively, the absence of Malthusian conditions, have been foundational to a range of deep explanations of long-term comparative development in Sub-Saharan Africa. According to theories of factor-biased technological change high ratios of land to labour have induced long-term patterns of economic specialisation in land and resource extensive commodities (Austin 2008). High land-labour ratios have also been argued to have shaped African labour regimes (e.g. slavery, pawning), lineage systems and household formation strategies (e.g. polygamy) (Domar 1970, Iliffe 2007, Fenske 2014). It has also been argued that scarce supplies of human labour have induced particular colonial policies with respect to labour mobilisation and commodification (Cooper 1996, Frankema and van Waijenburg 2012). In addition, land abundance and limited capacities to tax vast empty hinterlands have been pointed to as barriers to pre-colonial state centralisation (Young 1994, Herbst 2000).
Very few scholars, however, have made attempts to trace back demographic developments into the distant past (see Manning 2010 for the most important exception). The dearth of quantitative evidence prevents the field from engaging in a more systematic discussion of the possible factors that may have suppressed the growth of African populations before 1900. Of course, centuries of slave trading are part of such explanations as several scholars have pointed out (Manning 2010, Inikori 2007), but they are not necessarily the dominant factor. This paper reviews the possible explanations for the comparatively slow evolution of African populations in pre-colonial times by distinguishing time-variant from time-invariant factors, and by using variation in population densities around 1950 to develop some systematic arguments. In my discussion I will pay attention to at least five factors: 1) the ecological conditions of food crop cultivation, 2) ecological conditions for the survival of domesticated and wild animals, 3) tropical disease incidence, 4) deliberate practices of population control, 5) unintended checks on population growth. I will not try to weigh these factors and rank them in order of importance. Instead, my focus will be on the question how these factors may be related in determining the long-term evolution of populations in specific areas and periods of time.