Direct Evidence of Population Change
HISTORICAL demography, a difficult pursuit in any age, is especially daunting in the English Middle Ages, a period with no parish registers, no hearth-taxes, no large-scale censuses excepting Domesday Book, and few serviceable taxation returns excepting those of 1377. Direct demographic evidence is not only sparse, it is also highly selective, and relates primarily to the mortality of the wealthy and privileged groups in society. It is most unlikely that any adequate data on birth-rates will ever be forthcoming from English sources. Nevertheless it would be displaying not only an unwarranted pessimism but also a culpable ignorance of the sophistication of modern demographic techniques to assume that no worthwhile vital statistics can be extracted from surviving records.
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