le 6 août 2004
This book presents information that could turn out to become important for theories of demographic change.
If it is accurate that knowledge about methods of contraception and abortion are not a recent discovery but have been widespread among ancient peoples (which makes sense to me), some important questions arise:
(1) how do we explain the christian-european ignorance of, even rejection of contraception and abortion that was commonplace in the euro-american world until into the 60ies? When and how did this basic human knowledge about contraception and abortion practices disappear and how might this have contributed to the steep growth of the european population in early modern times? Riddle offers some interesting answers here: he interprets the witch trials of early modern times as a strategy against specialists in matters of contraception and abortion (many midwifes were labeled witches and burned), which the church mainly employed to "repopulate" territories that had suffered from extremely high death rates due to the plague epidemics starting in 1348. Eventually, this resulted in the unnaturally high birth rates early european modern times are known for.
(2) how do we explain the surprisingly high birth rates in many contemporary socalled "development countries" and especially in the islamic world that some american strategists see as one of the major background factors of terrorism ("youth bulge")'--- how is this demographic pattern correlated with the history of knowledge about contraception and abortion in these countries?
If "youth bulge" theories of terrorism and war are confirmed, this could even become a major area of investigation critical to the future of our civilization.