Isabelle Devos is a historian (Ghent University) and demographer (Université Catholique de Louvain-la-Neuve). She is Full Professor at the History Department of UGent. Before her appointment at UGent in 2004, she worked as a Research Fellow at the History Department at the European University Institute in Fiesole (Italy), at Indiana University, Bloomington (USA) and as a Fulbright Fellow at the Department of Demography at University of California, Berkeley (USA).
Over the years her research has revolved around social and economic issues of the early modern period and the long nineteenth century in a comparative perspective, with a particular focus on demography, health and living standards. Under her supervision there are several finished projects on the life courses of population groups which up until now have largely been neglected in historical research (the hearing impaired, never married women, prostitutes, servants, prisoners etc.). By focusing on inequalities and vulnerable populations, Devos has gained better insight into the manner in which societies determine hierarchies and adapt to economic change.
Devos is currently (co-)supervising interdisciplinary research projects on mortality in nineteenth- and twentieth-century Belgium (regional, urban-rural and social differences) including INEQKILL, an EOS project, focused on social and spatial disparities in all-cause and cause-specific mortality in Belgium (1800-2025) and EPIBEL, a Brain-Belspo project (2021-2024) examining 5 epidemics and social inequalities in Belgium (covid-19, Spanish flu, cholera 1866, dysentery 1693-94 and medieval plague). She reaches out to the broader audience by citizen science projects such as www.sosantwerpen.be which, with the help of 700+ volunteers, aims to create and analyze a high-quality database of causes of death of the Antwerp population (1820-1946) using a unique historical register preserved in the Antwerp City Archives. In 2023 she and her team received the Science Communication Award of the Royal Flemish Academy of Belgium for Science and Arts.
Isabelle Devos also possesses vast experience in the development of data infrastructures at the national, regional and local level. She is the main promotor of STREAM, a spatiotemporal research infrastructure for early modern Flanders and Brabant (funded by Hercules Foundation), of HISSTER, a data-infrastructure project on historical mortality statistics available at the local level and co-supervisor of LOKSTAT, a research infrastructure for nineteenth and twentieth century local statistics. In this capacity, she is also director of the Quetelet Center for Quantitative Historical Research, UGent’s centre of expertise for researchers using quantitative and quantifiable sources from Belgium’s past (www.queteletcenter.ugent.be).
She is also heavily involved in international networks and collaborations. She is the coordinator of the international research community for historical demography (www.historicaldemography.be) bringing scholars from various disciplines together. Previously, she was member of the Board of Directors of the International Research School N.W. Posthumus and Research Director of the research program Life-course, Family and Labour (2008-2017). She is currently member of the editorial board of Leuven University Press, and of peer-reviewed journals such as History of the Family, Historical Life Course Studies, the Low Countries Journal of Social and Economic History , of the steering group of SHiP Network Studying the History of Health in Port Cities and the Management Committee of the Cost-Action Program. The Great Leap. Multidisciplinary approaches to health inequalities, 1800-2022.
supervision of Bachelor papers
supervision of Master theses
Economische geschiedenis: Gezondheid & welvaart in historisch perspectief