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The art of counting : Reconstructing numeracy of the middle and upper classes on the basis of portraits in the early modern low countries

De Moor, Tine and Zuijderduijn, Jaco LU (2013) In Historical Methods 46(1). p.41-56
Abstract

In the past decades, numeracy has taken an increasingly important place in the study of human capital formation, as well as in literacy studies and studies on formal education and book production. In order to understand levels of education, scholars have recently tried to develop new ways to measure the level of education, particularly because it has since become apparent that the measures of literacy historically have not always been very accurate. To measure numeracy, population surveys have been used to show that in the past respondents who were innumerate had a tendency to state their ages as round numbers, ending in 0 or 5. Finding suitable data in the pre-modern age to analyze numeracy via age heaping is a cumbersome task,... (More)

In the past decades, numeracy has taken an increasingly important place in the study of human capital formation, as well as in literacy studies and studies on formal education and book production. In order to understand levels of education, scholars have recently tried to develop new ways to measure the level of education, particularly because it has since become apparent that the measures of literacy historically have not always been very accurate. To measure numeracy, population surveys have been used to show that in the past respondents who were innumerate had a tendency to state their ages as round numbers, ending in 0 or 5. Finding suitable data in the pre-modern age to analyze numeracy via age heaping is a cumbersome task, however. In this article, the authors explore the possibilities of using art, especially individual portraits in which the age of the sitter is indicated on the portrait by means of the Aetatis suae formula, as a source to study human capital formation and numeracy. This article has two main objectives that contribute to different areas of economic history as well as art history. The authors first demonstrate which criteria should be taken into account when building a database, especially for artistic artifacts. Secondly, they use the dataset to contribute to the understanding of numeracy levels among the well-to-do in the Low Countries in the early modern period. The analysis will show that women's numeracy was often even higher than that of men. Notwithstanding the high overall level of women's numeracy compared to other countries in Europe, the authors will also test the recent hypothesis put forward by Peter Földvári, Bas Van Leeuwen, and Van Jieli Leeuwen-Li that when women's ages were mentioned, they were usually reported as part of a married couple and possibly adapted to the ages husbands reported.

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Please use this url to cite or link to this publication:
author
publishing date
type
Contribution to journal
publication status
published
subject
keywords
ages, economic history, Golden Age, literacy, numeracy, portraits
in
Historical Methods
volume
46
issue
1
pages
16 pages
publisher
Heldref Publications
external identifiers
  • scopus:84873362860
ISSN
0161-5440
DOI
10.1080/01615440.2012.706795
language
English
LU publication?
no
id
84839b47-7d54-4a7f-9d74-a5a8f49c6d11
date added to LUP
2016-09-15 16:01:10
date last changed
2017-01-29 04:32:14
@article{84839b47-7d54-4a7f-9d74-a5a8f49c6d11,
  abstract     = {<p>In the past decades, numeracy has taken an increasingly important place in the study of human capital formation, as well as in literacy studies and studies on formal education and book production. In order to understand levels of education, scholars have recently tried to develop new ways to measure the level of education, particularly because it has since become apparent that the measures of literacy historically have not always been very accurate. To measure numeracy, population surveys have been used to show that in the past respondents who were innumerate had a tendency to state their ages as round numbers, ending in 0 or 5. Finding suitable data in the pre-modern age to analyze numeracy via age heaping is a cumbersome task, however. In this article, the authors explore the possibilities of using art, especially individual portraits in which the age of the sitter is indicated on the portrait by means of the Aetatis suae formula, as a source to study human capital formation and numeracy. This article has two main objectives that contribute to different areas of economic history as well as art history. The authors first demonstrate which criteria should be taken into account when building a database, especially for artistic artifacts. Secondly, they use the dataset to contribute to the understanding of numeracy levels among the well-to-do in the Low Countries in the early modern period. The analysis will show that women's numeracy was often even higher than that of men. Notwithstanding the high overall level of women's numeracy compared to other countries in Europe, the authors will also test the recent hypothesis put forward by Peter Földvári, Bas Van Leeuwen, and Van Jieli Leeuwen-Li that when women's ages were mentioned, they were usually reported as part of a married couple and possibly adapted to the ages husbands reported.</p>},
  author       = {De Moor, Tine and Zuijderduijn, Jaco},
  issn         = {0161-5440},
  keyword      = {ages,economic history,Golden Age,literacy,numeracy,portraits},
  language     = {eng},
  month        = {01},
  number       = {1},
  pages        = {41--56},
  publisher    = {Heldref Publications},
  series       = {Historical Methods},
  title        = {The art of counting : Reconstructing numeracy of the middle and upper classes on the basis of portraits in the early modern low countries},
  url          = {http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/01615440.2012.706795},
  volume       = {46},
  year         = {2013},
}