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Fertility in Historical China: Recent Research Findings and Their Theoretical Implications

23rd September 2014 3pm, University of Southampton, 58/1009

Zhongwei Zhao, Australian National University

It is widely accepted that fertility was high before the demographic transition because there was no deliberate fertility control in the past; and this was due to either that people did not know how to control their reproduction or that they wanted to have many children, especially sons. New research findings from recent investigation show that in Chinese history marital fertility was not very high. A considerable number of people had the intention to, and they did, control their family size, although effective contraceptives were not available. Furthermore, antinatalist ideas and suggestions were promoted by some Chinese officials and intellectuals a long time ago. This presentation summarises some major research findings made in Chinese historical demography in recent years and discusses their theoretical implications and importance for our understanding of past demographic regimes and rapid fertility transition taking place in recent history.