Project Plan

(Short version, see also the extended version)

From the programme for large investments from NWO (Dutch National Fund for Scientific Research) the Historical Sample of the Netherlands (HSN) in collaboration with the DANS did get a grant of 3,085 million EURO for the programme 'Life courses in context'. It is the first time that Humanities gets a grant from this fund for large investments. The programme's objective is to develop a database with about 40.000 individual life courses of people born in the period of 1863-1922. This database with micro-data will be supplemented with core data on the level of the municipalities. This will be done by digitalizing the results of the ten-yearly censuses as they were taken between 1859 and 1947. Above this amount the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences has granted 600.000 Euro.

The programme will build on work already carried out by two KNAW institutes - the International Institute of Social History (IISH) for the Historical Sample of the Population of the Netherlands (HSN) and the Data Archiving and Networked Services (DANS) for the digitized census data - in collaboration with scholars active in a broad group of research institutes.

The database of the Historical Sample of the Netherlands (HSN) will cover the entire country and contain micro-level data on the life courses of over 40,000 individuals born between 1863 and 1922. These life courses are to include data on each successive family situation in which the individuals lived, as well as data on the religion and occupational title of each subject and of every person with whom they co-resided (and, for married subjects, data on the occupational title and place of residence of family members of the subject's spouse). Because the population registers have recorded details of every change of residence for every individual since 1850, investigators can have access to research populations that are not limited to persons who stayed put in just one municipality. The HSN database will cover the entire period from 1863 to 2000 and can be regarded as a chronological expansion of the retrospective databases currently in use by the social sciences which database consists of data form persons only born in the period after 1900 and which have very scarce information about the parental situation for the earlier cohorts.

Individual life courses have to be analysed in a rapidly changing environment of a industrializing and modernizing Dutch society. The Dutch national censuses form a fundamental source of information for conditions on the level of the municipality. In addition to the population size, population censuses contain information on the structural characteristics of the population, such as age, gender, marital status, religion, household status, occupational activity, and nationality. In some years the censuses were combined with an occupational census and a housing census. The present grant application includes the digitisation of the population and occupational censuses of the Netherlands for the full period 1859 to 1947. The data will be linked and integrated with those from the Historical Database of Dutch Municipalities and will build on those censuses already compiled by the Data Archiving and Networked Services (DANS) and Statistics Netherlands (1795-1859 and 1899).

The expansion of the existing databases of HSN and DANS into complete systems will be of major significance in the long term. In the short term it will provide a strong stimulus to academic research into social, demographic and economic developments over the past two centuries. Based on these databases, a research programme has been drawn up involving the principal research groups using quantitative material on the Netherlands in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. This programme will result in a series of studies in historical demography, social and economic history, human geography, sociology and epidemiology. The work will be performed in stages so that the data will become available for research before the project is completed.

Another aspect of methodological innovation envisaged by this programme lies in the scope for connecting data from the micro and meso/macro levels. The population censuses and other municipal data offer a context for the individual-level and family-level data. The combination of the different sources will create new opportunities for multi-level or cross-level analysis.

Last updated: 3 April 2013