My research interests range from historical demographic topics, in particular the study of fertility and mortality, to the field of women’s work and patterns of male breadwinning and the history of the family. I have always been fascinated by the way in which ordinary people tried to create and continue a living – in many and often very creative ways – despite the often strong societal forces they were facing. In doing so, ordinary people created change and were making important contributions to the great revolutionary changes that have shaped our modern world, such as the first demographic transition or the Industrial Revolution. These all encompassing changes would not have occurred without these so-called ‘ordinary’ people who not only 'lived through' the changes but also made them happen. In my work I often use the prism of gender to enrich my inquiries.


Current research projects

Genes, Germs and Resources. The role of the family and the disease environment in mortality and longevity in the Netherlands, 1812-2015.

An NWO funded research project (Vrije Competitie). For description of the project click here:see here


Labouring Lives. Women, work and the demographic transition in the Netherlands, 1880-1960, Monograph in press, by Peter Lang (Bern) in 2014.


‘Measuring children’s clustered mortality risks in the past, an example from the Netherlands, 1880-1930’, together with Ben Pelzer; paper to be published in an international journal.


I am currently supervising the following PhD students:

Region, religion and health. The cultural rigidity of mortality and morbidity patterns in the Netherlands, 1870-1947 

By Nynke van den Boomen at the Radboud University Nijmegen (together with Engelen and Kok) 

Too young to die. Excess female mortality at young ages in the Netherlands, 1850-1930

By Maaike Messelink at the Radboud University Nijmegen (together with Engelen)

When life begins with death. Demographic, socio-economic and cultural determinants of infant mortality in the Dutch province of Noord-Brabant, 1840-1940

By Evelien Walhout at the University of Tilburg (together with Van Bijsterveld and Engelen)

The formation of an industrial society in Valkenswaard

By Henk van Mierlo at the University of Tilburg (together with Van Bijsterveld)


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