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Hardcover | $45.00 Short | £31.95 | ISBN: 9780262025515 | 552 pp. | 6 x 9 in | 29 illus.| March 2004
Paperback | $23.00 Short | £15.95 | ISBN: 9780262512435 | 552 pp. | 6 x 9 in | 29 illus.| January 2009

Essential Info

Of Related Interest

Life under Pressure

Mortality and Living Standards in Europe and Asia, 1700-1900


This highly original book—the first in a series analyzing historical population behavior in Europe and Asia—pioneers a new approach to the comparative analysis of societies in the past. Using techniques of event history analysis, the authors examine 100,000 life histories in 100 rural communities in Western Europe and Asia to analyze the demographic response to social and economic pressures. In doing so they challenge the accepted Eurocentric Malthusian view of population processes and demonstrate that population behavior has not been as uniform as previously thought—that it has often been determined by human agency, particularly social structure and cultural practice.

The authors examine the complex relationship between human behavior and social and economic environment, analyzing age, gender, family, kinship, social class and social organization, climate, food prices, and real wages to compare mortality responses to adversity. Their research at the individual, household, and community levels challenges the previously accepted characterizations of social and economic behavior in Europe and Asia in the past. The originality of the analysis as well as the geographic breadth and historical depth of the data make Life under Pressure a significant advance in the field of historical demography. Its findings will be of interest to scholars in economics, environmental studies, demography, history, and sociology as well as the general reader interested in these subjects.

About the Authors

Tommy Bengtsson is Professor of Economic History and Demography, Department of Economic History, Lund University, Sweden.

Cameron Campbell is Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of California, Los Angeles.

James Z. Lee is Professor and Dean of the School of Humanities and Social Sciences at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology.


"A major milestone in preindustrial population history." , J. P. McCoy, Choice

"The book is amazingly rich and fascinating and represents a major advance in historical demography in data collection, theory, and methods.", Ronald Lee and Richard H. Steckel, Historical Methods


"The authors have assembled powerful new data sets that shed light on questions about demographic behavior in the context of household and community, and permit comparative analysis across Europe and Asia. This is the richest and most important work in population history in many years."
Ronald Lee, Professor of Demography and Economics, University of California, Berkeley

"There is much talk about comparative history, but very little systematic effort to do it. Bengtsson, Campbell, Lee, and their collaborators have produced a work that is truly remarkable in its conception and execution, and a model for future generations."
Richard Easterlin, University Professor and Professor of Economics, University of Southern California

"In this remarkable volume, Bengtsson, Campbell, Lee, and their collaborators compare population dynamics in Europe and Asia in the centuries just before industrialization. Using both causal models and local studies, they show how household structures, cultural values, and domestic decisions produced variations in mortality across age, gender, and income levels. Combining exceptional geographic breadth with rigorous attention to local details, these studies are essential for understanding fundamental patterns of life in preindustrial societies."
Jack A. Goldstone, Hazel Professor of Public Policy, George Mason University

"This book is a major contribution to our understanding of the escape from hunger and premature death since 1700. It goes beyond previous studies both in the wealth of comparative data that it has assembled and in its analytical insights. It is indispensable reading for historians, demographers, and economists concerned with long-term trends at both micro and macro levels."
Robert W. Fogel, Director, Center for Population Economics, University of Chicago, 1993 Nobel Laureate in Economic Sciences