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Famine, revolt, and the dynastic cycle

Population dynamics in historic China

Abstract

Historians have long noticed that population declines in ancient China often coincided with dynasty changes, and that most of these declines were the result of internecine wars which, in turn, were often initiated by famine or density pressure. Since the interactions between density pressure, internecine wars, and dynasty changes cannot be explained by the traditional age-specific density-dependent population structure, we propose to use a bandit/peasant/ruler occupation-specific population model to interpret the dynamic socio-economic transitions of ancient Chinese population, and provide econometric support to our model. We also highlight the rich dynamics of the composition of human population, a factor which was often neglected in previous research on general populations.

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This research was partly funded by the Rockefeller Foundation population science grant to C. Y. Cyrus Chu. Comments and suggestions by an anonymous referee and seminar participants at Berkeley, Michigan, Stanford and National Taiwan University were helpful in the revision of earlier drafts. Generous programming help from Clint Cummins of TSP and Ruth Yu is gratefully acknowledged.

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Chu, C.Y.C., Lee, R.D. Famine, revolt, and the dynastic cycle. J Popul Econ 7, 351–378 (1994). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00161472

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00161472

Keywords

  • General Population
  • Population Structure
  • Human Population
  • Chinese Population
  • Population Model