Henry, Louis

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Louis Henry was a French demographer who is considered the father of historical demography. Henry graduated from the Ecole Polytechnique in Paris in 1934 and served in the French army until 1945. In 1946 he joined the Institut National d'Études Démographiques (INED), which had been founded not long before that time by Alfred Sauvy (1898–1990), where he worked until his retirement in 1975. He also taught in many universities in France and abroad and was awarded a number of honorary doctorates.

Henry analyzed population trends in France and other European countries in the early postwar years for INED's journal Population, devising for that purpose improved tools of demographic analysis. That work led to an important treatment of interacting demographic phenomena ("D'un Problème Fondamental de l'Analyse Démographique," 1953) and to a book on marital fertility, Fécondité des Marriages (1953), in which he developed, in parallel with Norman Ryder in the United States, the concept of parity progression ratios, now a major tool of fertility analysis. Later his methodological innovations were brought together in Démographie: Analyse et Modèles (1972).

Henry also became interested in the level of fertility in populations in which birth control had not yet spread. He called such a regime "natural fertility." To find reliable evidence of such situations, he used data from the parish registers of pre-Revolutionary France (sixteenth through eighteenth centuries). The resulting analytical techniques, entailing "family reconstitution," were set out in a well-known manual, written with Michel Fleury, that was published in 1956. A pilot study of the village of Crulai in Normandy, a classic in historical demography, was published in 1958. In addition to analyses based on registration data, Henry made use of genealogical data.

The technique of family reconstitution from parish register data has been applied by countless historians in France and elsewhere. It took on even greater importance when it was used to reconstruct the total French population over the years 1670 to 1830. That project started in 1953, and the first aggregated results were published in a special issue of Population in 1975.

Those historical data also were used in the construction of models. Henry identified the key components of fertility (what later were termed the proximate determinants of fertility) and combined them in mathematical models to show how they result in age-specific or duration-specific marital fertility rates; he paid special attention to the analysis of birth intervals. His major papers on these issues have been translated into English (Henry 1972b).

Henry also developed models for nuptiality and various other analytical techniques.

See also: Cohort Analysis; Demography, History of; Family Reconstitution; Historical Demography; Laslett, Peter; Ryder, Norman B.


selected works by louis henry.

Henry, Louis. 1953. Fécondité des Mariages: Nouvelle Méthode de Mesure. Paris: Institut National d'Études Démographiques.

——. 1967. Manuel de Démographie Historique. Paris: Librairie Droz, 1967.

——. 1972a. Démographie: Analyse et Modèles. Paris: Larousse. English translation: Edward Arnold, 1976; Spanish translation: University of Barcelona, 1976.

——. 1972b. Selected Writings, ed. Mindel Sheps and Evelyne Lapierre-Adamczyck. Amsterdam, New York: Elsevier.

selected works about louis henry.

Fleury, Michel, and Louis Henry. 1956. Manuel de Dépouillement et d'Exploitation de l'État Civil Ancien. Paris: INED. Revised in 1965 and 1976.

Gautier, E., and Louis Henry. 1958. La Population de Crulai: Paroisse Normande. Paris: Institut National d'Etudes Démographiques.

Henri Leridon