The demography of isolated populations: German-speaking communities in a northern Italian valley between the XVIIIth and XIXth century

Lorenzo Del Panta, Università di Bologna
Rosella Rettaroli, Università di Bologna
Francesco Scalone, Università di Bologna

The paper outlines the demographic regime of a German-speaking community in the Fersina Valley between the XVIII and the XIX century. The area is part of Trentino, one of the alpine region in Northeastern Italy. The populations of Fersina Valley can be seen as a “micro isolated system”. Furthermore in the valley two linguistic groups cohabited (Italians and Germans), which absolutely differ from one another and with almost zero demographic interchanges. We manage a double level of isolation (geographical and demographical ones), especially regarding the German-speaking (Mocheni) community. In this paper, we will review the first results about the German-speaking part of the population. The general outlook is a population that reflects the typical mechanisms of mountain areas, with on average a sufficiently high births level to overcome the possible negativity of the deaths. The survival of the communities seems quite high if compared to Italian standards in the same periods. As to nuptiality, the resulting indicators confirm the presence of a traditional late marriage model for both sexes. The restricted choice among a scanty number of people and, probably, a household policy of birth control due to the socioeconomic structure of the area, could be explaining factors of the control of marriages, especially among males. Late marriages associated with relatively low fertility levels, with a downward tendency as time goes by. These preliminary results confirm that in the analyzed period the Fersina Valley was an area of “low pressure” demographic regime. This kind of demographic model is able to implement by itself its regulatory mechanisms of the growth, as to prevent the occurrence of serious mortality crisis that are typical of situations in which a too wide gap in the natural increase ended up causing episodes of severe imbalance between population and means of subsistence.

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 Presented in Session 70. Mobility and population dynamics in the past