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A Comparison of Demographic Trends in the Faroe and Shetland Islands

J. R. Coull
Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers
No. 41 (Jun., 1967), pp. 159-166
DOI: 10.2307/621333
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/621333
Page Count: 8
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A Comparison of Demographic Trends in the Faroe and Shetland Islands
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Abstract

This paper seeks to analyse the contrasting demographic developments of the Faroe and Shetland Islands over the last two centuries, during the period when their old subsistence economies have been breaking down and giving way to economies based on specialization and exchange. For these insular communities, the trends in the utilization of fisheries' resources have been of supreme importance, and the manner in which location has governed the balance between contact and isolation in their external relations has also been of great moment. At a subsistence level, the population of Shetland was more than double that of Faroe, and it began to rise in the early eighteenth century, approximately a century before that of Faroe, with the rise of a commercial fishery. After more than doubling by the mid-nineteenth century, however, the Shetland population began to decline with the attraction of better opportunities in Britain and in English-speaking lands overseas, and this decline is still unchecked. Meanwhile, a commercial fishery had begun in Faroe in the early nineteenth century, and provided the economic basis for the increase in population which has continued till the present day. Within the island groups themselves, isolated settlements have become depopulated, and there is a movement to towns; this can be traced from the mid-nineteenth century in Shetland, but the movement did not gather momentum in Faroe until the twentieth century. A consequence of these developments has been the appearance of a 'top-heavy' population structure in Shetland, while that of Faroe is youthful.

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