Historical Social Research

30.3 - Siblings–Parents–Grandparents

Special Issue
HSR Vol. 30 (2005) No. 3: Special Issue: Siblings – Parents – Grandparents

Georg Fertig (Ed.): Siblings – Parents – Grandparents: Contributions of Historical, Anthropological, and Demographical Research

How did and does society arrange the closest relatives – sisters, brothers, parents and children, grandparents and grandchildren? This HSR Special Issue unifies contributions of different disciplines, covering qualitative and quantitative history, ethnology, economy, and biology. The contributions deal with three issues. Firstly, it is about the way the parents‘ generation structure sibling relationships, inheritance and consequences. Secondly, they discuss the question if “the foreign” already began with the own brother and sister – and what that meant for individual and collective life concepts. Thirdly, it is asked to what extent parents and grandparents were willing and capable to invest in the welfare of their children. This HSR Special Issue thus discusses the approaches to an interdisciplinary field of research, such as historical demography, takes when addressing the topics of sibling relations and intrafamilial support. Demography is defined as the most radically quantitative of all social sciences, whilst history, having recently undergone a culturalist turn, now offers only little room for quantitative methods. The real challenge of interdisciplinarity is however not presented by the variance in methods humanities and social sciences often suffer from and sometimes enjoy, but in dealing with evolutionary biology. Old and medieval history, ethnology, and modern social history are all interested in understanding the actions of the people they study. For biologists, these actions are proxies for the genetic baggage acquired over a very long time span. When we take note of their work we should therefore be aware of this fundamental difference in cognitive interest.