Revisiting mortality crises of the past: introduction

Tommy Bengtsson, Alain Gagnon


Humans have a tremendous interest in crises, more so than in trends. The current financial crises in the US and Europe and the tsunami in Japan in 2011 are examples of how important crises are to all of us. In the past, crises were even more common and recurrent, in particular those stemming from food shortages and the spread of epidemics. Our fascination with crises results from the immediate importance these have had on our living conditions. How to understand and predict crises so that we can take proper measures has always concerned us. Analysing crises, it seems natural to start with asking how big the crisis is and what are its consequences, then turn to its causes. The first five studies in this thematic issue deal with historical epidemics – their size, how they are spread, and their associated risk factors at the individual, familial, or communal levels. The sixth and final study deals with causality problems in analysing crises.


Tommy BENGTSSON, Professor of Demography and Economic History, Centre for Economic Demography (CED) and Department of Economic History, School of Economics and Management, Lund University, Lund, Sweden. E-mail: .


Alain GAGNON, Professor of Demography, Département de démographie, Université de Montréal, C.P. 6128, succursale Centre-ville, Montréal QCH3C 3J7,  Canada. E-mail:







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ISSN: 2035-5556

Reg. Tribunale di Roma n. 3321/54