What is the significance of the vital statistics

Studies on the history of the city of Göttingen




Foreword The "inner" history of cities in the transition to their modern growth period and its course has been a topic that has moved into the foreground of social history research in recent years. The population development has received special attention - not only from a purely quantitative aspect, but also with regard to changes in the social composition and structure of the population, which in turn is closely interrelated with the economic structure of the respective city. If, on the one hand, general development tendencies can be identified, on the other hand, different courses and manifestations from case to case, which are determined by particular circumstances - geographic location, commercial structure, sovereign politics, being affected by wars and epidemics, indebtedness, the presence of institutions of supra-local importance, etc. In Göttingen, the university, with its institutions, staff and students, has had a major impact on developments since the second third of the 18th century, all the more since the city entered the process of industrialization only late and hesitantly. The present study by Wieland Sachse begins shortly before the university was founded, so it still covers the previous conditions and extends to the transition of the city to Prussia, which by and large coincided with the beginning of industrialization and increased population growth.

For this time, the author, along with other sources, had access to the extensive and meaningful material from the censuses of 1763, 1829 and 1861. Using IT, he evaluated it in an exemplary way and carefully supported his analysis with an extensive statistical appendix. The investigation achieves its full meaningfulness in the reconstruction of the social structure of the Göttingen population with the help of a "multiple social index" and with the use of a stratified model that has been carefully checked for its load-bearing capacity. The author's methodological discussions may at times appear brittle; however, they are necessary to justify his approach and explain a social statistical model that will certainly find attention in research.

The importance of the unusually productive study is not limited to the local history of Göttingen; rather, it represents a further contribution to the social history of southern Lower Saxony and to the problems of social change from an agricultural to an industrial society, which are impressively presented here in an individual case, but with an overarching question.

Appearing in the anniversary year of the Göttingen University, founded in 1737, the work of Wieland Sachse, which is largely based on the rich holdings of the Göttingen City Archives, can be welcomed as an important contribution to the city and university history.

Rudolf Vierhaus