The context for demographic change Population events have significance at a wide diversity of scales. Childbirth, marriage, divorce, illness, death and migration are all intensely personal occurrences which are imprinted in the biography of those concerned-indeed, in its simplest sense, a human biography consists simply of demographic events: “hatches” and “despatches” (with “matches” on the way in many cases). Demographic events are central to the great turning-points in the life course, and have been recognized by anthropologists as being crucially ritualized as “passages” from one life-condition to another. European societies have generally ceased to celebrate the onset of puberty, menarche and menopause (these being specifically biological developments and thus permissive, rather than explicitly demographic), but most other demographic events are marked in societal ways-christenings and naming ceremonies, weddings, house-warming parties, funerals. And certain ethnic groups within present-day Europe have further societal acknowledgements of, for example, menarche in girls (Islamic societies) or arrival at adulthood (the Jewish bar mitzvah for boys, bat mitzvah for girls). Demographic events are thus overladen with societal and cultural meanings in many highly significant ways.