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By Kathrin Levitan (auth.)

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Additional resources for A Cultural History of the British Census: Envisioning the Multitude in the Nineteenth Century

Sample text

This meant that most of the aggregates to which individuals belonged were not located anywhere other than the nation, an abstract rather than a geographical location. This is not to say that the local ceased to be important in mid-nineteenthcentury Britain. ”94 The census after 1841, rather than pinning individuals down, extracted them from their local communities into various nationally based demographic groups, even if those national groups could then be broken down again into local ones. Despite the dramatic expansion of the census in 1841, some of the suggestions made by the committee of the Statistical Society of London, including questions about marital status, religion, and health, did not make it on to the census.

The National Association for the Promotion of Social Science, like the statistical societies of the 1830s, counted influential politicians, economists, and writers among its founding members. 129 Mann himself was a civil servant for the government, and his complaint is indicative of the tension between different government offices that often arose over such costly enterprises as the census. ”134 Mann and his colleagues also recognized, however, that if the census asked too many questions that were considered intrusive it would become unpopular, and the accuracy of the whole venture would be threatened.

135 The census, as usual, was in the delicate position of gathering as wide a range of facts as possible while simultaneously testing the boundaries between public and private, state and society. Keeping the census within feasible and popularly acceptable limits was therefore crucial to its success. Various suggestions for improving the 1861 census were also made in Parliament, but the most dramatic controversy revolved around the proposed question about the “religious profession” of every individual.

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