Talk:Medieval Demography
Get Talk:Medieval Demography essential facts below. View Videos or join the Talk:Medieval Demography discussion. Add Talk:Medieval Demography to your topic list for future reference or share this resource on social media.
Talk:Medieval Demography
WikiProject Middle Ages (Rated Start-class, Top-importance)
WikiProject iconThis article is within the scope of WikiProject Middle Ages, a collaborative effort to improve the coverage of the Middle Ages on Wikipedia. If you would like to participate, please visit the project page, where you can join the discussion and see a list of open tasks.
Start-Class article Start  This article has been rated as Start-Class on the project's quality scale.
 Top  This article has been rated as Top-importance on the project's importance scale.

Older comments

In the 1200-1350 section I personally feel that the population boom is not adequately explained.

It is my understanding that the increase of population is in part, if not primarily, caused by advancements in agriculture e.g. the horse collar (allowing a horse/donkey, which can be trained, to pull farm equipment instead of an oxen, which has the tendency to go where it pleases, or your wife... no really this apparently happened), and the metal plow was invented and made accessable at this time increasing the amount of ariable land (the thick, infertial topsoil from the reclaimed forests required a "blade" infront of the actual plow to cut into the ground making it able to turn with the plow).

A very large and complex issue to discuss in this article. The horse collar and plow thing is what we are told in college and high school when the teacher has only a few minutes to spend on the topic. It would be like saying the world popultion boom of the 19th and 20th century was a result of the use of fossil fuels (fertilizer, tractors, etc..). Yeah sure its true, but it ignores all the other social, political and environmental factors. Indeed one could say technological innovation comes in response to population increase, to meet new needs that didnt exist before.. they are symbiotic, it is the nature of Demography. Anyway, also see Medieval technology, certainly the individual articles on the technologies could discuss their contributions to increased populations. Stbalbach 23:30, 16 Apr 2005 (UTC)

This article should have a different name. This is not "medieval demography" but the medieval demography of Europe. Otherwise, it ought to be expanded to at least include the larger Eurasian civilization(s) of which Europe was a part during the Middle Ages. To discuss the demography of Europe outside of the context of the demography of the Middle East, the Muslim Empires, and Eurasia in general makes little sense to me, particularly since demography is a macrolevel look and the locus of civilization was elsewhere during that time period.Saurav 06:30, 29 Jan 2006 (UTC)

Medieval generally means Europe. --Stbalbach 16:32, 29 January 2006 (UTC)

Just late backing for Stbalbach here. The term medieval applied to this span of years really does only apply to the historiography of Europe. Other civilization regions, even one interacting as closely with Europe as the Middle East, were operating on different cycles with regard to unity/disunity, population, economic and social trends. Although many have had periods that corresponded to medieval Europe in specific ways, they were not really at the same times and need their own treatment of historical demographics. Random noter (talk) 17:25, 13 August 2018 (UTC)

3rd paragraph of 1300-50

Couple issues.

--1) "These bad economic conditions of the poor aggravated the calamities of the plague because of poor living conditions and access to food and medical help." If I'm not mistaken 14th century medical help was ineffective against the plague, so this should not be an issue. Not that you couldn't mention poor conditions in the context of famine or even typhoid, but plague hit even the British royal family.

--2) "Responding to these problems required a more equitable redistribution of wealth, which did not happen right away because property owners resisted change through wage freezes." is not wrong, but unclear. The plague and other exogenous causes of population decline caused wage inceases (lower labor supply) and a redistribution of wealth, which were resisted by such means as wage and price controls. The article does not make clear cause and effect.

The preceding unsigned comment was added by (talk • contribs) .

--1) True medical help in the 14th century would not have been effective; the poor did suffer more, they had no recourse, such as fleeing to a villa in the country, as in the Decameron, and lived in more crowded conditions, harder to isolate a sick person, and were generally weaker immune wise from a poorer diet and harder life. --2) Thats true too. Thank you for your input. --Stbalbach 05:51, 28 February 2006 (UTC)

Population height

  • Stbalbach, I'm not sure it belongs in this article, but I stumbled upon this research about variations in population's height from the medieval period to modern times: [1]. There are some interesting, and possibly unexpected, findings here. --Leinad ¬ Flag of Brazil.svg »saudações! 20:37, 21 March 2006 (UTC)

So, how many were they?

Having read through this article, I'm unfortunately none the wiser as to how many people there were in Europe in the Middle Ages. There are a few figures here and there in the text, and some of those don't make sense ("at the time of Charlemagne it is thought to be between 25 and 30 million, and of this 15 million are in Carolingian France", would mean that at least half of the Europeans lived in France), but most of the text talks vaugely abut populations growing and declining without including any numbers. So, is there anyone who could add some more numbers to the text? I realise that scientists are mainly making educated guesses, but it's still better than nothing. The person who have added the bibliography at the bottom will hopefully have access to those books, which ought to be a bit more specific than this. Thomas Blomberg 23:51, 30 April 2006 (UTC)

Even if all we could have would be rough guesses or ranges, like between 10 and 30 million people, that would be helpful to certain activities. KellyCoinGuy (talk) 04:33, 9 November 2012 (UTC)

Improving Clarity

Are there any year on year figures/estimates? It would be great to see this information in the form of a graph/timeline. Is there an accepted set of figures - I'd like to see something similar for other time periods too.


We can work in multiple POV's on what the numbers are (there is no single right answer) but you need to provide a source. The external link you gave makes no mention of medieval demography. The numbers in the article are based on the David Herlihy article from the Dictionary of the Middle Ages. -- Stbalbach 01:55, 11 May 2006 (UTC)

How this link makes no mention of medieval demography?--RafaelG 02:27, 11 May 2006 (UTC) [2]
Strange when I looked earlier it went to a different page, now I see it. Well, the numbers are from a single source, Josiah Russell, from 1972, from a paper. The DotMA article is more up to date (it draws from a bunch of sources), although I'm sure there are even more up to date sources. As the link says, hard numbers are highly speculative "Josiah Russell is the historian who has stuck his neck out" - when giving number we also have to give a source. Do we want to list lots of different numbers and sources in this article, or stick to a single source? --Stbalbach 03:00, 11 May 2006 (UTC)
My opinion is that we should have various estimates, since there is not any absolute number (like a census) for its total population.--RafaelG 19:27, 11 May 2006 (UTC)


Reading the text of the article, I was struck by the relative imprecision of the term "Europe" as used in the context. Would the term Europe refer to everything from the Urals to northern Sweden, and from Gibraltar to Constantinople? My hunch is that something less was intended (i.e Europe, south of the Baltic and west of Russia) but the article never defines its real geographical scope.

If all of Europe, in a broad continental sense, was intended, then that fact might need to be clarified in the opening sentences.Bonbga 22:22, 19 October 2006 (UTC)

The Medieval Warm Period

It is suggested that the rise in population was associated with the Medieval warming period which saw warm wet climates increase across the Mid Latitude areas of the world, (and a hotter drier period in the southern and eastern Mediterranean). As a result agricultural yields in Western Europe increased. Similarly the demographic collapse of the end of the 13th century is marked by the onset of the "Little Ice Age". John D. Croft 06:09, 6 August 2007 (UTC)


"Feudalism, which also brought increased social stability and thus more mobility. "

Could someone explain this? I always thought social mobility was heightened in times of cultural or social upheaval (e.g. when the feudal system began to become unnecessary and collapse at the end of the middle ages, and Europe began to transition from a land-based to monetary-based economy, the new moneyed bourgeois was better able to purchase nobility for their children. This is what I have been taught, anyway).

How would a more stable, rigid social structure make it easier to move around in the ranks?


There is a disturbingly large amount of unsourced data and conjecturing here. There should be more citations in this article. Kemet 15:27, 29 January 2008 (UTC)

so what hepened in the 19th centry to population? --Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 05:30, 20 March 2008 (UTC)

population increase compared to grain ratio (Re;1200-1350)

I would like to point out something about how this reads. It says that the average grain ratio is 2:1 - 7:1, from the readers perspective this means that the average is about 4.5:1. Whereas at present the ratio of return is 30:1 or more. If for arguments sake it is 30:1. and if we assume that during both periods all of the reasonably available crop land is in use. then since 30/4.5 ~ 6. An increase in population of 5-7 does not read as immediately strange. Whereas the line "Modern grain yields are 30:1 or more, but the population is only 5-7 times higher." implies that it is immediately strange.

As a reader, I think it would be nicer to have the data provided in a way that allows me to share the author's immediate suspicion that europe was overcrowded.


"overpopulation" is a very subjective term and I think it should be avoided. (talk) 03:45, 31 July 2008 (UTC)


"A classic Malthusian argument has been put forward that says Europe was overcrowded with people; even in good times it was barely able to feed its population.[by whom?]." By whom? Malthus.Menswear (talk) 02:24, 30 April 2010 (UTC)

Ostsiedlung and reconquered lands in Spain

At the same time, during the Ostsiedlung, Germans settled east of the Elbe and Saale rivers, in regions previously only sparsely populated by Polabian Slavs. Crusaders expanded to the Crusader states, parts of the Iberian Peninsula were reconquered from the Moors, and the Normans colonized southern Italy. These movements and conquests are part of a larger pattern of population expansion and resettlement that occurred in Europe at this time. I believe that first Polabians Slavs were slaughtered and later their empty areas settled again. The same applies to Spain, where Moors supported high density of populations. Change of population must have at first negative effect on population. In Silesia for example, Germans populated mountain areas that must have been empty at the beginning. Cautious (talk) 03:07, 31 December 2011 (UTC)

Adequate numbers missing

My purpose for visiting this page was finding out if other numbers than the (old) ones I found about the population boom in the fifteenth century would be available, only to find out that this article is speaking of a population loss in this century. How can this be when M. K. Bennett in 1954 estimated a total population rise for Europe from about 45 million in 1400, to 60 in 1450, to 69 in 1500? This would represent a more stunning expansion than the so-called population boom of the sixteenth century (from 69 to 89). So, if this article wants to claim otherwise I need to see some sources.K-Billy (talk) 16:54, 26 January 2012 (UTC)


This article only discuss the demography of Europe in the Medieval times. So the title is misleading as it seems that it discuss about the demography of all humans in the medieval age. It is better to add information of other continents or rename it to 'Medieval demography of Europe' or 'demography of medieval Europe'. Thank you. Runehelmet (talk) 13:58, 26 February 2012 (UTC) I agree. The Middle Ages weren't just in Europe or the Occident, and so the title is misleading. (talk) 19:04, 28 August 2014 (UTC)

Well, historiographic comfort zones with terminology, but the contellation of ideas/phenomena that go with the word medieval really apply only to Europe. You can definitely find comparable phenomena in other civilizations, whether by post-imperial eras, eras of fragmentation, comparable social systems, etc., but not in the same span of years exactly and not always in the same combinations. You'd end up shoving together all civilizations during the era roughly 800-1500 AD, when they were all undergoing different experiences, or shoving comparable periods of different civilizations from different eras of time together. Either would be worthwhile as comparative history, but that would be a different thing than this. One also needs to guard against applying terms that apply to Europe, or any other civilization, and the particular characteristics of its development, and using those to frame developments in some other. Historians using the term "feudalism" in a generic way across civilizations, for example, really have to caveat and hedge their terms to avoid this problem. Random noter (talk) 17:30, 13 August 2018 (UTC)

What about changing agricultural techniques?

I don't see much about these in the article. Aren't agricultural techniques a major constraint on population density? (talk) 16:19, 21 October 2012 (UTC)

Composite references

Unfortunately, the use of composite references makes it hard if not impossible to move from any given claim to the specific references supporting it. It also carries the potential for hidden improper synthesis, when the text contrasts estimates from different sources while using the same citation for both. (talk) 04:42, 16 December 2012 (UTC)

"All of Europe" and therefore the "population of Europe" are poorly defined.

Admittedly, the ambiguous areas, such as the Caucasus, are often thinly populated, but it can be unclear what area various population estimates refer to. Ananiujitha (talk) 20:31, 13 September 2013 (UTC)

Reference synthesis.

Regarding reference number 1.:

"1. a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af ag ah ai aj ak al am an ao ap aq ar as at au The citation combines sources from David Herlihy article "Medieval Demography" in the Dictionary of the Middle Ages (see Bibliography this article), and from Josiah C. Russell, "Population in Europe", in Carlo M. Cipolla, ed., The Fontana Economic History of Europe, Vol. I: The Middle Ages, (Glasgow : Collins/Fontana, 1972), 25-71"

Reference number 1. is a huge problem. It is a mash-up of two distinct sources that combine to create a reference synthesis. Perhaps this was done as a way to short-cut the referencing procedure, but whatever the reason, there is no way that all those alphabetical components attributed to this synthesized reference are on the opening page of each source. The "referred-to" material must be scattered through the individual components of the mega-reference, but where? No individual page numbers or URLs are provided for the reader to prove statements, disprove them, or merely read more about that aspect of the article. I hope it's not true, but this synthesis technique seems like a good way to hide information that may conflict with what authors wrote in the article. Another reader has tagged Reference 1. in several places as a possibly unreliable source. Even if the individual two amalgamated sources are totally reliable, the way they have been forced together here make them totally unreliable and impossible to verify.

What encyclopedia or journal would allow this situation to stand? In my opinion, either the author who took this tack this needs to clean everything up and provide real references with page numbers or URLs for each instance of use or Reference 1. needs to be deleted. It may as well be, because, as it is, the material is so poorly handled that it is essentially unreferenced.

I see that a lot of reliance on Mr Russell's writings, some of which are not extensive. A mixture of viewpoints, even if they conflict, would add more dimension to the article. Thank you, Wordreader (talk) 17:05, 25 July 2015 (UTC)

Brenner debate

I'm no expert on the Brenner thesis but the numbers for Europe and country/area population do not match this section at all. Either this article disproves his thesis, or those numbers are wrong, or those numbers do not reflect a subtler understanding of this thesis. Whichever it is, those tables show increase of overall and almost every region population with the exception of the post plague era. Random noter (talk) 17:32, 13 August 2018 (UTC)

  This article uses material from the Wikipedia page available here. It is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.



Music Scenes