Five centuries of marriages


Project costs:  1 850 000 € (1 850 000 € funded by FP7)
Contract type: ERC Advanced Grant
FP7 reference number: 269796
Duration: 2011-05-01 – 2016-04-30
Website Five centuries of marriages

This project is a long-term research initiative based on the data-mining of the “Llibres d’Esposalles” conserved at the Archives of the Barcelona Cathedral. This extraordinary data source comprises 244 books of marriage licenses records, with information of approximately 550.000 unions celebrated in over 250 parishes of the Diocese between 1451 and 1905. Its impeccable conservation is a miracle in a region where parish archives have undergone massive destruction.

Book demographics

The books include information on the tax posed on each couple depending on their social class, on an eight-tiered scale. This fiscal marker, as well as the exhaustive nature of the source and the variety of types of the parishes involved, from the city centre to the most rural villages, allows for the execution of a project oriented towards the multiple aspects of demographic research, especially in the very long run. These investigations may include population estimates, marriage dynamics, cycles, and indirect estimations for fertility, migration and survival, as well as socio-economic studies related to social homogamy, intra-generational social mobility, and inter-generational transmission and sibling differentials in social and occupational position. Because of its continuity over five centuries, the source constitutes an unique instrument for studying the dynamics of population distribution, and more specifically the expansion of the city of Barcelona and the constitution of its metropolitan area. In the same way, the source will provide the best continuous material to analyze the chronology and the geography in the constitution of new social classes and groups.

 A database of historical marriages

For these purposes, it will be essential to create a database to be called the “Barcelona Historical Marriages Database (BHiMaD)” containing the information that is now only available in document form. The creation and completion of the data base in a manner that allows for the concurrent realization of research and database construction will be a great challenge. An ERC advanced grant can make it possible.

The research team, at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, includes participation of researchers from the Center for Demographic Studies and the Center for Computer Vision, with specific skills in historical databases and in computer-aided recognition of ancient manuscripts.

By transforming the “Llibres d’Esposalles” in adigital library, 5CofM will serve the preservation of the originals and unlock the full potential of information residing into the document collection, making it available to scholars and to society at large.