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  • HISCO. Historical International Standard Classification of Occupations
  • Hartmut Kaelble
HISCO. Historical International Standard Classification of Occupations. By Marco H. D. van Leeuwen, Ineke Maas and Andrew Miles (Louvain: Leuven University Press, 2002. 441 pp.).

The book proposes a solution for an important technical problem of quantitative studies of change of social mobility, of occupations, of demography or of education. Each new study has to develop a classification of the titles of individual activities in primary sources. For most studies it takes weeks or even months to develop a classification which fits the specific period, the specific country and the specific theme under investigation. Studies of the social origin of elites need classifications different from those for such origins of school leavers or of workers. Two proposals were made for such a classification: by the International Labour Office and by a group of social historians in the 1980’s in German (c.f. R. Schüren, Soziale Mobilität, St. Katharinen 1989, pp. 313–361).

A group of European social historians and sociologists now publishes a further proposal of classification, which is called the HISCO-classification. It is based on studies of the long 19th century in eight Western and Northern European countries and in Canada. The proposal has various advantages. It integrates about 1000 occupational titles and, hence, is a highly differentiated international classification which can well be used also for international comparison. Moreover occupational titles in five other languages, in French, German, Dutch, Norwegian and Swedish, are related to this English classification. In fact this is also a sort of multilingual dictionary for occupational titles. The book contains four separate classifications: the major classification for occupational titles, and further classifications for status titles, for titles on temporary activities, and for sectors of activities. Hence, the book does not try what the earlier proposal attempted: to put forward a combined classification for occupations, for education and for the status of economic independence. On the whole this is a very helpful instrument for a classification which can be adapted to the specific needs of a large variety of individual studies.

Hartmut Kaelble
Humboldt University

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