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Book A Concise History of World Population by Massimo Livi-Bacci (2001-07-12)


A Concise History of World Population by Massimo Livi-Bacci (2001-07-12)

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Review Text

  • By Shawn R on February 2, 2016

    This is a very interesting book; every aspiring demographer should read it. It is not overly technical, and it conveys its ideas in a clear manner. I would recommend this book both for graduate students in demography and population-related fields and for undergraduate students who aspire to complete a graduate program in one of those fields. It also makes for good reading for the general intelligentsia who wish to know the context of population growth.

  • By Chris on February 21, 2013

    I ended up teaching an independent study in world population for two students, and we selected this text. I must say, it was really fascinating. Well-written, great scholarship, interesting stories, good and accessible use of data... I would thoroughly recommend it for anyone with interests in demography.

  • By Jon Willis on February 6, 2014

    This book was a disappointment. It was published in 1992 and spends a lot of time debating issues that have since been largely resolved. Such as, Does a larger population lead to more innovation and development that in turn supports a larger population? Or does innovation and new development allow us to more comfortably support a larger population? What? Wasn't the first part of this notion debunked as nonsense years ago? Why didn't the author redo this whole section in the Fifth Edition, published 20 years later in 2012?Near the end of the book he discusses the planet's carrying capacity and includes a discussion DeWit's 1967 calculation that Earth can support 146 billion people!!! He doesn't agree with this, but c'mon, part of an expert's job is to keep the reader on track with what is useful analysis.Throughout the book Professor Livi-Bacci spends a great deal of time providing averages and general trends, but then doubles back repeatedly to note all the exceptions or outliers to these measures. Perhaps this is an occupational hazard of scholars, but it is a clumsy way to educate. Also, it seems that any population estimates from over a hundred years ago are hugely variable and the cause-effect of events and population changes are largely conjecture. In the end the reader is mostly left wondering if it's all that important to know anyway.I recently started reading "Limits to Growth - the 20-Year Update", which covers much the same territory. I feel like I've learned more in the first two chapters of LTG/20 than in all of Concise History. Sorry, but this book may have outlived its usefulness; I don't feel it was worth the time I invested in reading it.

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