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The concept of proto-industrialization is considered by many historians to have outlived its usefulness. This article seeks to argue the contrary, using a case study from Catalonia, in southern Europe, which provides a rare example of early industrialization on the periphery of Europe. Using an in-depth study of an important proto-industrial community, Igualada, the article puts forward two key arguments. First, it shows how the proto-industrialization of the woollen industry and later the cotton industry shaped the transition to the factory. There were important continuities throughout in terms of human capital and organization of production; in particular, the persistence of the family as unit of production. Second, the impact of proto-industrialization on the family economy is shown to have had important consequences for demographic behaviour. As in other areas of Europe, there was a notable impact on age at marriage and on marital fertility. Equally important, however, was the impact on mortality and migration, aspects that have been neglected by historians. In particular, the high infant and child mortality rates for Igualada suggest that historians need to rethink the effect of proto-industrialization upon life chances.