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Defnet, Mary A.; Ducat, Jean; Eggerickx, Thierry; Poulain, Michel / From Grez-Doiceau to Wisconsin : contribution à l'étude de l'émigration wallonne vers les États-Unis d'Amérique au XIXème siècle
(1986)

Introduction (English),   pp. [11]-26 PDF (5.2 MB)


Page 12

  12                                         FROM GREZ-DOICEAU TO WISCONSIN
 OVERPOPULATION IN THE COUNTRYSIDE
       The growth of population during the first part of the 19th century
is shown
 by the difference in the total number of births and the total number of
deaths.  If
 births are more numerous than deaths, the population number grows. In reverse,
if
 deaths are more numerous than births, the population number decreases. Until
the
 mid-i 8th century, periods of growth, of stagnation and of decreases came
rapidly one
 after the other. If births became more numerous than deaths, an epidemic,
a war or
 starvation reduced the number.
       Death was everywhere.     Out of four children under 7 years old,
only one
 could survive. When older, these children remained unmarried. It was often
seen
 that one out of two single young men or women would never marry. A woman's
 fertility, following the laws of nature, could provide in normal circumstances
a
 family of eight children. If birth or early-age mortality or widowing hadn't
been so
 common, the population would have been higher.
       So, people of the Old Regime were dependent on nature and its caprices
and
 wouldn't fight against fate.   Beginning in the second part of 18th century,
the
 population started to grow.    Starvation, epidemics and wars decreased
and all
 positive elements helped the growth of population to become a real blessing.
All
numbers and data show it.     For the first time, the Belgian population
was fastly
growing, particularly the Brabant population. In the 1784 records, the number
of
inhabitants of Grez-Doiceau and surrounding hamlets exceeded 1200  Population
growth, a capitalistic system starting and an industrial revolution beginning
in the
Sambre Valley next to Charleroi and in the Meuse Valley around Liege provoked
deep and important changes.     Not only in cities but also in the countryside,
rural
habits had to be adapted. Ancestral procedures such as fallows and common
grazing
lands were forgotten for better and easier ways. Green pastures replaced
fallows.
Potatoes were introduced at that time. This vegetable had two positive effects:
potatoes offered a food diversification and bettered the soil productivity.
 Then,
around Namur, a trial was attempted to increase the yield in order to feed
the
growing population. The common properties were put up for sale. We already
can
forsee a population growth beginning in the second part of 18th century,
resulting
in overpopulation together with a farming revolution and an economical change.
The number of births during the last decade of 18th century was particulary
high
despite both the famine of 1794 and the French occupation.
      Twenty five years later at the establishment of the Dutch Regime in
1815,
the total number of marriages was increasing until around 1820.   During
the
following decades, population growth reached its highest level: a rate of
50 per cent
between 1820 and 1845.       This phenomenon is more important in cities
or in
industrial communities but effects were felt in little villages as well.
We ought to
explain now the industrial revolution and its effects on farming. Until the
end of


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