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In Which I Bang My Head Against The Internet

with 4 comments

As part of what I’m working on, I need to have some British census data handy. I have a condensed copy of the 1851 in print format, so that’s no big deal. And it turns out that scans of the census going back to its inception in 1801 are online, if somewhat awkwardly so.

Here’s where things get interesting. Look, for instance, at this:


These are the totals for the 1801 census, and the population is recorded as 8,217,561. Good enough. I’ve always understood that the population was around 8 million at the turn of the century, so that fits with what I’ve always thought.

Here’s the summary table from the 1811 census:

Why is the total population in 1801 suddenly 10,942,646? Why is the population of England alone in 1801 now 8,331,434?

Now look at this:

This is a comparative table from the 1821 census. Why does it record the total population as 10,942,646? Is it because Wales and Scotland are included? If so, why does this table record the population of England alone as 8,331,434?

I have been banging my head against the internet for two days trying to make sense of this.


Written by srogers

July 26, 2011 at 7:48 pm

Posted in research

4 Responses

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  1. Did that first one explicitly claim to be all of Britain?


    July 26, 2011 at 8:39 pm

  2. No. I’m pretty sure the 1801 census was just England. The problem is that I don’t understand where the extra 115K people came from when the 1811 census provides its comparative data.


    July 26, 2011 at 8:47 pm

  3. Refugees from the Continent, perhaps uncounted at the time?


    July 26, 2011 at 8:57 pm

  4. I assume it was some kind of error that was detected afterwards, but there’s no telling. Every census from 1811 up records the same data for 1801, though. But we can’t be sure that they’re not just copying the same error, you know?


    July 26, 2011 at 9:04 pm

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