Census & Society: why everyone counts
7 March – 19 June 2011
- Why do we collect statistics on population?
- What can they tell us?
- How do we chart our changing lives?
census in Britain will be held on 27 March 2011. It is now one of the most widely-used sources of data in planning, policy development and research. Census & Society: why everyone counts
(7 March – 19 June 2011) is a new British Library exhibition that explores how the census has influenced our view of society and how it has in turn been shaped by the values and priorities surrounding its implementation.
Each section of the exhibition (families and households, health, employment and migration) includes examples of data from censuses alongside materials which illustrate how life in Britain is changing, and the issues of most concern. Visitors will be able to see photographs, maps, public information broadcasts and cartoons, alongside insights from the census data itself.
From the first modern attempt to introduce a census to England in 1753, the idea has generated interest and strong emotion. The census has always been an occasion for satire, subversion and resistance. The exhibition looks at some of the controversies and some of the ways in which the census has been used as an opportunity in wider political campaigns.
Alongside issues of national or state interest, historic census records have increasingly been used by people with a personal interest in their family or local history. Copies of census returns for Annie Besant, the political author and campaigner, will be on display to show what these records can tell us about an individual and family life.
The exhibition describes some of the people and works surrounding early calls for a more detailed population count, including the first edition of Thomas Malthus’s Essay on the Principle of Population (1798), and John Graunt’s Natural and Political Observations, written some hundred years earlier.
From 1851 onwards, the census was generating data on a scale and at a level of detail unprecedented in Britain. The reporting of census results provided new challenges in statistical representation, and encouraged new ways of thinking about the public presentation of data. The exhibition features examples of 19th century innovation such as Augustus Petermann’s population density map (1841), one of the earliest of its kind. Census reports from Ireland, in several ways more sophisticated than their British counterparts during the 19th century, feature the early use of colour in charts and maps, surprising for official publications from this time.
Census & Society: why everyone counts displays more than the official representation of results. The census, and our reactions to it, have been satirised in cartoons from its beginnings through to present day. The exhibition features a church sermon, play, poem and a rap.
Ian Cooke, Social Science Curator at the British Library, said:
“The census, and the way that we respond to it, provides rich insights into many aspects of our daily lives and families. In Census & Society we illustrate issues that have been and remain important to us. As well as urgent and serious concerns, we also include more playful and creative reactions to the census.”
For more information, please visit: www.bl.uk/census
Notes to Editors:
Census & Society: why everyone counts is open from 7 March to 19 June 2011 in the Folio Society Gallery at the British Library. Admission to the exhibition is FREE.
Exhibition opening hours
Monday, Wednesday-Friday 10.00 – 18.00, Tuesday 10.00 – 20.00, Saturday 10.00 – 17.00, Sunday and Bank Holidays 11.00 – 17.00. For further information about the British Library and its exhibitions please see: www.bl.uk/whatson
Broken down by age, sex and religion: the history of the census in Britain
Monday 14 March 18.30 – 20.00
Explore the history of the census - how it has been carried out, the information it can uncover and reactions to it across time. Speakers include Audrey Collins, family history specialist at the National Archive, Edward Higgs, Professor of History at the University of Essex and Dr Stephen Thompson, Cambridge University. £6/£4 concessions.
There are two study days for researchers using population data, or who are interested in finding out more about census data:
Tuesday 12 April – An introduction to using census data for UK researchers organised with the UK Data Archive, featuring presentations on interaction data, samples of anonymised records and the longitudinal study.
Tuesday 10 May – Event on longitudinal data sources including major studies, research projects and their application to policy, organised in conjunction with the UK Data Archive and Longview.
For more information about the 2011 census, please visit: www.census.gov.uk
For more information about the first family history and genealogy website to make the complete birth, marriage and death indexes and the complete census collection for England & Wales available online, please visit: www.findmypast.co.uk
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