Laurent Toulemon, France Meslé and Jacques Véron

answer our questions about the Dictionnaire de la Démographie

INED - Colette Confortès

France Meslé, Laurent Toulemon and Jacques Véron are demographers and INED researchers working in complementary fields. Together they edited the recent Dictionnaire de Démographie et des Sciences de la Population, published by Armand Colin.

(Interview from April 2011)

Why a new demography dictionary?

Up to now there have been two demography dictionaries in French, and they are quite different from each other. The Dictionnaire Démographique Multilangue set out to define demographic terms and facilitate their translation into different languages. Roland Pressat’s Dictionnaire de Démographie was meant to be more technical; it has a limited number of entries, centred primarily on what is called demographic analysis.
Clearly a wider-ranging dictionary was needed, one that would cover the broad, rich population science field. Our dictionary features not only demography terms but also terms from demography-related disciplines such as history, geography, sociology, economics, statistics, epidemiology, etc., each of which handles certain aspects of population phenomena.

When Dominique Paris, who heads INED’s Publications Office, and Jean-Marc Rohrbasser, the head collections editor, suggested that we manage the project, we immediately agreed.

What type of dictionary is it?

We wanted the dictionary to be a collective INED project, and we made the most of the broad diversity-in terms of both disciplines and approaches-offered by INED researchers and associated researchers. We wanted a rigorous but accessible work that would fully convey the complexity and range of the population sciences. The authors each presented notions they are particularly familiar with, in entries that all begin with a simple definition and proceed to discuss certain historical, geographic and methodological aspects of the concept in question. Each author was free to express his or her particular sensibility, making for what we hope is lively reading.
There are 400 entries of varying length by more than 60 different authors-whom we wish to thank for taking part in this collective labour. There are also around twenty mini-essays presenting strong points of view on such population questions as "Should we open borders?" and "Is there a limit to the length of human life?"...etc.

Who is the dictionary addressed to?

It is meant as much for secondary school teachers — particularly in economics and social sciences — as for students training in quantitative or qualitative research, academics, and journalists. It should also be of interest to "enlightened" readers seeking to better understand demographic concepts and social issues related to demographic change. Our hope is to see the work well positioned not only in university libraries but also on people’s own bookshelves.