History of world population growthfrom Angus Madison The world economy a millenial perspective
Statistical evidence on world population and its regional distribtion are fairly well documented since the beginning of the nineteenth century (1820).
Prior to 1820, the evidence is much weaker, and there are more gaps in the database. Nevertheless, the exercise in quantification is not a product of fantasy. The strongest and most comprehensive evidence is that for population, and the population component is of greater proportionate importance in analysis of centuries when per capita income growth was exiguous.
Demographic material is important in providing clues to per capita income development. One striking example is the urbanisation ratio. Thanks to the work of de Vries for Europe and of Rozman for Asia, one can measure the proportion of population living in towns with more than 10000 inhabitants. In the year 1000, this ratio was zero in Europe (there were only 4 towns with more than 10000 inhabitants) and in China it was 3 per cent. By 1800 the West European urban ratio was 10.6 per cent, the Chinese 3.8 per cent and the Japanese 12.3 per cent. When countries are able to expand their urban ratios, it indicates that there was a growing surplus beyond subsistence in agriculture, and that the non–agricultural component of economic activity was increasing. These changes were used to infer differences in per capita progress between China and Europe in Maddison (1998a), and such inference is a feature of the present study. The Chinese bureaucracy kept population registers which go back more than 2000 years. These bureaucratic records were designed to assess taxable capacity and include information on cultivated area and crop production which was used by Perkins (1969) to assess long run movements in Chinese GDP per capita.
Bagnall and Frier (1994) have made brilliant use of fragments of ancient censuses to estimate occupational structure, household size, marriage patterns, fertility and life expectation in Roman Egypt of the third century.
Serious work on historical demography started in the seventeenth century with John Graunt (1662). He derived vital statistics, survival tables, and the population of London by processing and analysing christenings and burials recorded in the London bills of mortality from 1603 onwards. Halley (1693) published the first rigorous mathematical analysis of life tables and Gregory King (1696) derived estimates of the population of England and Wales by exploiting information from hearth and poll taxes, a new tax on births, marriages and burials and his own minicensuses for a few towns.
Historical demography gained new vigour in the twentieth century in several important centres:
As a result there are now a large number of monographic studies on European, American and Asian countries, and a long series of efforts to construct aggregative estimates of world population.
Riccioli (1672) and Gregory King (1696) inaugurated this tradition. Early estimates are usefully surveyed by Willcox (1931) who listed 66 publications between 1650 and 1850. Modern scholarship is represented by Colin Clark (1967), Durand (1974), McEvedy and Jones (1978) and Biraben (1979).
The following detailed estimates for years 0 to 2000 are resulting from these studies: