The possibilities of simulation in historical demography. A concrete example from Suriname over the period 1838-1873.
In this lecture simulation techniques are discussed to discover what percentage of Surinamese slave women bore children by different fathers during the period 1838 to 1873. The matrifocal family, comprising wife and children, might well have predominated on the plantations. However, slave owners did not record fatherhood, and the debate is hampered by lack of data. Fortunately, Moravian missionaries recorded sexual relationships among slaves in Suriname, and by combining those sources with slave registers one can reconstruct detailed parts of the life course of female slaves. Due to the specific characteristics of the Moravian sources, however, the data suggest that some women conceived children during periods for which the Moravian sources make no description of the mother having had sexual relations. Three different simulation scenarios (full, constrained full, and constrained randomization) were developed to impute these missing fathers, each scenario consisting of 100 independent runs. Between and within the scenarios, the estimates of what percentage of slave women bore children by different fathers are robust. One may therefore conclude that in the two decades prior to 1863, about 45% of those women with at least two children had borne children fathered by different men.
Huub Everaert (1961) is currently teaching methodology and statistics at the Faculty of Education of the HU University of Applied Sciences Utrecht. He received his degree in anthropology at the University of Amsterdam. His dissertation at the same university in 1999 dealt with male female relationships among slaves on four sugar plantations in Suriname. His research interests, apart from general methodology and applied statistics, are stress and coping among teachers, literacy, historical demography, and event history analysis. Dr. Everaert is a member of the Research Centre for Education at HU University of Applied Sciences Utrecht and focusing on teaching and reading in elementary schools.