A Cultural History Of The British Census: Envisioning The Multitude In The Nineteenth Century

Hardcover | August 15, 2011

byKathrin Levitan

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The British census plays an unquestioned role in governance today, and the recent digitization of nineteenth century census data has allowed millions of amateur and professional researchers to visualize their national and familial past. This study tells the tangled story of how the census took shape over the early decades of its existence, developing from a simple counting of households during the Napoleonic Wars into a centralized undertaking that involved the governmental and intellectual luminaries of Victorian Britain. Along the way, the census intertwined with the pressing questions of the day, including Malthusianism, industrialization, political representation, Irish immigration, women’s employment, reproduction, and empire. The book explores the hotly disputed process by which the census was created and developed and examines how a wide cast of characters, including statisticians, novelists, national and local officials, political and social reformers, and journalists responded to and used the idea of a census. It shows that the act of describing British society in statistical terms was also an act of contestation.

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From the Publisher

The British census plays an unquestioned role in governance today, and the recent digitization of nineteenth century census data has allowed millions of amateur and professional researchers to visualize their national and familial past. This study tells the tangled story of how the census took shape over the early decades of its existe...

Kathrin Levitan is an Assistant Professor of History at the College of William and Mary.
Format:HardcoverDimensions:284 pages, 9.61 × 6.12 × 0.88 inPublished:August 15, 2011Publisher:Palgrave MacmillanLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0230119379

ISBN - 13:9780230119376

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Table of Contents

 “A National Undertaking”: Taking the Census * The Census and Surplus * The Census and Political Representation * Urban Growth, Urban Problems, and the Census * Marriage, the Family, and the Nation * Counting Race: the Census in Metropole and Colonies * Challenges and Alternatives to the Census

Editorial Reviews

"Kathrin Levitan's A Cultural History of the British Census is a useful and engaging study about the meaning of the census in British society. In addition to shining new light on an old source and convincingly asserting its importance to British conceptions of themselves, it is also a well-crafted intellectual history that traces ideas about belonging identity in Britain through the transformations of nineteenth-century politics." - Cercles "Levitan focuses on debates concerning the census in the first half of the nineteenth century, but more particularly on the social and cultural work of identity formation which it performed in this period. In Levitan, the census has found a historian who is even-handed and wide-ranging in her survey." - Times Literary Supplement "Provides an original approach, and the result will need to be engaged with by all historians working on modern Britain . . . The book is well researched and clearly written, and scholars of literature as well as history will find important material here." - The American Historical Review