At the centre of this study is an enquiry into variations in demographic behaviour in the past. It questions the traditional view that the pre-modern demographic pattern was characterised merely by restrictive and fairly static demographic behaviour. Nuptiality and fertility are the central phenomena used to assess the demographic system in the period prior to deliberate birth control. This study focuses on the mutual relationship between these two phenomena, but it also considers the socio-economic, socio-cultural and ecological variations identified within the region being researched. It is assumed that traditional models can explain much of the variation in demographic behaviour, but not all. As an explanatory tool, the traditional framework is therefore inadequate. But by applying resource-based models and drawing on new insights into the influence of religion, dialect and soil type, this study succeeds in broadening our view of how the pre-modern demographic system worked.
'[...] this is yet another solid contribution from "the Nijmegen school" on the historical demography of the Netherlands. (...) it shows a keen interest in the relative role of economic versus cultural explanations of demographic patterns. (...) the author (...) exploits archives from the years 1805 to 1813 that have never been used by dempgraphers before. (...) The most interesting and innovative parts of this book are in the chapter "The economy and culture of Gelderland." In particular, next to religion, the author looks at the influence of soil type and dialect on local culture. (...) Delger's results are the first I have seen that explicitly and systematically relate culture to fertility before the transition period. (...) Also, this study casts doubt upon some classic theories on the relationship between soil type and reproduction. The more finetuned analyses of this book show that the relationship, if any, is much more complex than previously thought.' Jan van Bavel in: Continuity and change, vol. 19/2 (2004)