Content associated with: Return of number of males and females in England and Wales at censuses 1871, 1881, and 1891 under occupational headings    Page 2

Census of England and Wales, 1871

Edward Higgs

The 1871 census, held on 2/3 April of that year, was the last of the decennial enumerations undertaken by the General Register Office (GRO) under the leadership of George Graham (Registrar General) and William Farr (Superintendent of Statistics), both of whom retired at the end of 1879. Both men had been the leading officers of the GRO for 30 years, and this may explain, in part, why the census and the reports it generated were similar in many ways to that of 1861. Householders were to supply the same information for each individual in their households: name, relationship to head of family, marital status, age, sex, occupation, birthplace, and medical disabilities. The only slight change was that the question on medical disabilities now related to those who were imbeciles, idiots or lunatics, as well as deaf and dumb and blind (Higgs, 1989, 123). However, no completely new enquiry was to be introduced into the census of England and Wales until that of 1891 (Higgs, 1989, 15–17, 125). Indeed, the GRO in the late nineteenth century fought vigorously to prevent any expansion of the census, arguing that it wished to concentrate on improving the quality of the data it already collected (Higgs, 2004, 126–7). This contrasts to the innovations in census taking and reporting in the period before 1861.

Perhaps the only major innovation in 1871 was the attempt to co-ordinate the taking of censuses in all the colonies and dependencies across the British Empire. This resulted in the reporting of a suspiciously accurate population total for the Empire in 1871 of 234,762,593 persons (Census of England and Wales, 1871, Vol. IV. General Report, vii). This was not the first time that a Census Report had given imperial population totals, such information being recorded for the whole Empire in the General Report for the 1861 census (Census of England and Wales, 1861, Vol III. General Report). However, all that was attempted in 1861 was to bring together data from local censuses held at different dates, sometimes decades apart, rather than to organize the taking of a census across the Empire at approximately the same time.

As in 1861, the published output of the census in England and Wales for 1871 can be divided into three sections. First, there were four preliminary publications in 1871 and 1872, giving the raw numbers of people and houses enumerated, both in registration district units, and older county units, and an index to place names in the former (Census of England and Wales, 1871, Preliminary report and tables of population and the houses; Census of England and Wales, 1871, Population tables. Area, Houses, and Inhabitants. Vol. II Registration or Union Counties; Census of England and Wales, 1871, Vol. I. Area, Houses and Inhabitants (Counties); Census of England and Wales, 1871, Population tables. Area, Houses, and Inhabitants. Vol. II Index to Population Tables).

These were followed by the General Report in 1873, a broad discussion of the results with general tables (Census of England and Wales, 1871, Vol. IV. General Report). This began with a rather self-congratulatory description of the results of the British imperial census, and then proceeded to a detailed discussion of the results respecting the characteristics of individuals (sex, age, marital status, birthplaces, occupations and medical disabilities), and of places (houses, population densities, etc.). This discursive treatment was then followed by a number of appendices:

Appendix A — tables of data on the characteristics of individuals and places;

Appendix B — the Census Act, and copies of schedules;

Appendix C — descriptions of the geographical units used;

Appendix D — data on the population of the colonies.

Lastly, there was a volume, also published in 1873, containing more detailed tables relating to ages, civil conditions, occupations, birthplaces, and medical disabilities broken down by the various registration divisions of the country (Census of England and Wales, 1871, Population Abstracts. Ages, Civil Condition, Occupations and Birth-places of the People. Vol. III).

REFERENCES

Census of England and Wales, 1861, Vol. III. General Report, BPP 1863 LIII. Pt. I.[View this document: General report . England and Wales. 1861]

Census of England and Wales, 1871, Preliminary report and tables of population and the houses enumerated in England and Wales, and in the Islands in the British Seas on 3rd April 1871, BPP 1871 LIX. [View this document: Preliminary report, England and Wales, 1871]

Census of England and Wales, 1871, Population tables. Area, Houses, and Inhabitants. Vol. II Registration or Union Counties, BPP 1872 LXVI Pt. II. [View this document: Population tables, England and Wales, Vol. II. Registration counties, 1871]

Census of England and Wales, 1871, Index to the population tables of England and Wales and islands in the British seas, BPP 1872, LXVI Pt. II. [View this document: Index to population tables, England and Wales, 1871]

Census of England and Wales, 1871, Population tables. Area, houses, and inhabitants. Vol. I. Counties, BPP 1872 LXVI Pt. I. [View this document: Population tables, England and Wales, Vol. I. [Ancient] counties, 1871]

Census of England and Wales, 1871, Population abstracts. Ages, civil condition, occupations, and birth-places of the people. Vol. III BPP 1873 LXXI Pt. I. [View this document: Population abstracts, England and Wales, Vol. III, 1871]

Census of England and Wales, 1871, Vol. IV. General Report BPP 1873 LXXI Pt. II. [View this document: General report, England and Wales. 1871]

Edward Higgs, Making sense of the census. The manuscript returns for England and Wales, 1801–1901 (London, 1989).

Edward Higgs, Life, death and statistics: civil registration, censuses and the work of the General Register Office, 1837–1952 (Hatfield, 2004).