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Abstract of the Answers and Returns made pursuant to an Act, passed in the Forty-first Year of His Majesty King George III.
[London:] [printed by Luke Hansard],, 1801-02. Entituled "An Act for taking an Account of the Population of Great Britain, and the Increase or Diminution thereof. 2 volumes, folio. Original pale blue-grey boards, 20th century pale brown paper spines to style (with typed labels), uncut. The Salisbury Cathedral Library copy, with their letterpress statement of ownership on verso of title pages and final leaf of text. Some chips to spines, a little rubbing to boards. A superior copy: tall and clean, scarce in the original boards. First edition of the first British census, the first detailed census of any country ever undertaken. "In 1801, the census was taken to determine Britain's overall fighting strength and to assess the agricultural capabilities of the country in relation to the numbers needing to eat. It was clear to the government that fighting the continuing war with France required people. Yet the 1790s had seen failed harvests, food riots, a wartime dislocation of trade, and political unrest. In the midst of such scarcity, the British government was as worried about disorder at home as about the war in Europe; too many hungry bodies, the French Revolution had made clear, could easily turn to violence" (Kathrin Levitan, A Cultural History of the British Census: Envisioning the Multitude in the Nineteenth Century, p. 49). The British census was drawn up to give a complete economic picture of the nation, together with a demographic history of the previous century from Parish Registers. The published returns tabulate houses, giving the number of families in each and the number uninhabited, gender, and occupations. The tabulations from the Parish registers give baptisms, burials and marriages from 1700 to 1800. The principle of the census had been proposed by the statistician and civil servant John Rickman (1771-1840): "Rickman correctly rejected the then modish view that population was falling, suggesting that a census would offer government an invaluable aid to effective military recruitment in the war with France, and by confirming growing national prosperity would also promote internal stabilization. He demonstrated that it was possible to derive population estimates from parish registers, thus facilitating a back-projection of demographic trends. Rickman's paper was shown to Charles Abbot by George Rose, MP for Christchurch, and in March 1801 Abbot steered the census bill to the statute book. Rickman had no hesitation in claiming credit; on 27 December 1801 he wrote to Robert Southey, 'At my suggestion, they have passed an Act of Parliament for ascertaining the population of Great Britain, and as a compliment (of course) have proposed me to superintend the execution of it'... Rickman's career and posthumous reputation were thus determined. With considerable skill he conducted the first census, which confounded Malthus's fear of falling population, and then developed tolerably accurate estimates of eighteenth-century population trends" (ODNB).
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Last Found On: 2016-06-20           Check availability:      Biblio    

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