Together with Gábor Koloh and Jakub Rákosník, I co-authored the chapter Demographic Change in Contemporary History (ca. 1900–2000), which is part of the European history textbook The European Experience: A Multi-Perspective History of Modern Europe (edited by Jan Hansen, Jochen Hung, Jaroslav Ira, Judit Klement, Sylvain Lesage, Juan Luis Simal and Andrew Tompkins). Please find the chapter’s introduction in the next section, followed by the PDF of the whole text. Below is the bibliographical reference and the link to the publisher’s site.
The demographic development of Europe in the twentieth century can be grasped by two indicators: firstly, the rate of natural demographic increase and decrease (birth and death rates), which was also shaped by external factors such as wars, plagues, and forced migrations; secondly, in order to explain the more intrinsic dynamics of demographic change in Europe, all the other factors of the changing Human Development Index (HDI) must be taken into account—such as health, knowledge, education, and economic wealth. The demographic history of Europe in the twentieth century can be broken down into four periods, according to three historical breaks. The first phase (pre-1914) was characterised by a gradual decline in birth rates that had started to rise, in the vast majority of European countries, during the last three decades of the nineteenth century. In less industrialised countries, natality had recently peaked during the 1880s and 1890s (Serbia, Romania), or at the beginning of the twentieth century (Bulgaria). The decline in the birth rate then culminated during the First World War. The interwar period induced the second phase: after a short wave of postwar compensatory births (births postponed due to war), the decades of the 1920s and especially the 1930s were considered by many contemporaries to be an age of population depression. The third phase began with the post-1945 baby boom, which was particularly pronounced in most Western European countries (although delayed in West Germany), while behind the emerging ‘Iron Curtain’, it was more moderate. The considerably long period of economic growth after the Second World War and the benefits of the post-war welfare state provided better living conditions for families with children. This also meant that people married earlier.The fourth period, the so-called ‘second demographic transition’, started in the mid-1960s in the West. Individualist attitudes, career demands, and changes in social attitudes (including the relaxation of traditional gender roles), combined with the availability of effective contraceptives, led to very low fertility. The lands behind the ‘Iron Curtain’ were affected by this process later, but the transformation of the 1990s had significant impacts on Central and Eastern European societies in terms of fertility, and this process continues to be very dynamic.
Gábor Koloh, Jakub Rákosník, and Thomas Schad: 2.1.3 Demographic Change in Contemporary History (ca. 1900–2000), in: Jan Hansen, Jochen Hung, Jaroslav Ira, Judit Klement, Sylvain Lesage, Juan Luis Simal and Andrew Tompkins (Eds)(2023), The European Experience: A Multi-Perspective History of Modern Europe. Cambridge, UK: Open Book Publishers, https://doi.org/10.11647/OBP.0323, S. 155-163. [LINK]