Quebec from 1665 till 1754. This, therefore, may be considered to be the earliest of modern censuses.
Efforts have been almost unceasingly made since 1872 by statistical experts in periodical conference to bring about a general understanding, first, as to the subjects which may be considered most likely to be ascertained with approximate accuracy at a census, and secondly—a point of scarcely less importance—as to the form in which the results of the inquiry should be compiled in order to render comparison possible between the facts recorded in the different areas. In regard to the scope of the inquiry, it is recognized that much is practicable in a country where the agency of trained officials is employed throughout the operation which cannot be expected to be adequately recorded where the responsibility for the correctness of the replies is thrown upon the householder. The standard set up by eminent statisticians, therefore, may be taken to represent an ideal, not likely to be attained anywhere under present conditions, but towards which each successive census may be expected to advance. The subjects to which most importance is attached from the international standpoint are age, sex, civil condition, birthplace, illiteracy and certain infirmities. Occupation, too, should be included, but the record of so detailed a subject is usually considered to be better obtained by a special inquiry, rather than by the rough and ready methods of a synchronous enumeration. This course has been adopted in Germany, Belgium and France, and an approach to it is made in the decennial census of Canada and the United States. Religious denomination, another of the general subjects suggested, is of considerably more importance in some countries than in others, and the same may be said of nationality, which is often usefully supplemented by the return of mother-tongue. Nor should it be forgotten that the internal classification and the combinations of the above subjects are also matters to be treated upon some uniform plan, if the full value of the statistics is to be extracted from the raw material. On the whole, the progress towards a general understanding on many, if not most, of the questions here mentioned which has been made in the present generation, is a gratifying tribute to those who have long laboured in the cause of efficient enumeration.
The British Empire
England and Wales.—Up to the beginning of the 19th century the number of the population was a matter of estimate and conjecture. In 1753 a bill was introduced by a private member of the House of Commons, backed by official support, to provide for the annual enumeration of the people and of the persons in receipt of parochial relief. It was violently opposed as “subversive of the last remains of English liberty” and as likely to result in “some public misfortune or an epidemical distemper.” After passing that House, however, the bill was thrown out by the House of Lords. The fear of disclosing to the enemies of England the weakness of the country in fighting-material was one of the main objections offered to the proposal. By the end of the century, however, owing to a great extent to the publication of the essays of Malthus, the pendulum had swung far in the opposite direction, it was thought desirable to possess the means of judging from time to time the relations between an increasing population and the means of subsistence. A census bill, accordingly, again brought in by a private member, became law without opposition at the end of 1800, and the first enumeration under it took place in March of the following year, the operations being confined to Great Britain. The inquiry was entrusted in England to the overseers, acting under the justices of the peace and the high constables, and in Scotland, to village schoolmasters, under the sheriffs. A supplementary statement of births, deaths and marriages for each parish was required from the clergy, who transmitted it to parliament through the bishops and primates successively. There was no central office or control. The schedule required the number of houses, inhabited and otherwise, the population of each family, by sex, and the occupation, under one of the three heads, (a) agriculture, (b) trade, manufacture or industry, or (c) other than these two. The results, which were not satisfactory, were published without comment. Ten years later, the chief alteration in the inquiry was the substitution of the main occupation of the family for that of the individual. The report on this census contained a very valuable exposition of the difficulties involved in such operations and the numerous sources of error latent in an apparently simple set of questions. In 1821 an attempt to get a return of ages was made, but it was not repeated in 1831, when the attention of the enumerators was concentrated upon greater detail in the occupation record. Their efforts were successful in getting a better, but still far from complete result. The creation, in 1834, of poor law unions, and the establishment, in 1836, of civil registration districts, as a rule coterminous with them, provided a new basis for the taking of a census, and the operations in 1841 were made over accordingly to the supervision of the registrar-general and his staff. The inquiry was extended to the sex, age and occupation of every individual; those born in the district were distinguished from others, foreigners being also separately returned. The number of houses inhabited, uninhabited and under construction respectively, was noted in the return. The parish statement of births, deaths and marriages was sent up by the clergy for the last time. The most important innovation, however, was the transfer of the responsibility for filling up the schedule from the overseers to the householders, thereby rendering possible a synchronous record.
With some modification in detail, the system then inaugurated has been since maintained. In 1851 the relationship to the head of the family, civil condition, and the blind and deaf-mute were included in the inquiry. On this occasion, the act providing for the census was interpreted to authorize the collection of details regarding accommodation in places of public worship and the attendance thereat, as well as corresponding information about educational establishments. A separate report was published on the former subject which proved something of a storm centre. The census of 1871 obtained for the first time a return of persons of unsound mind not confined in asylums. During the next ten years, the separate areas for which population returns had to be prepared were seriously multiplied by the creation of sanitary districts, to the number of 966. The necessity, for administrative or other purposes, of tabulating separately the returns for so many cross-divisions of the country constitutes one of the main difficulties of the English census operations, more particularly as the boundaries of these areas are frequently altered. In anticipation of the census of 1891, a treasury committee was appointed to consider the various suggestions made in regard to the form and scope of the inquiry. Its proposals were adopted as to the subdivision of the occupation column into employer, employed and independent worker, and as to the record upon the schedule of the number of rooms occupied by the family, where not more than five. Separate entry was also made of the persons living upon property or resources, but not following any occupation. No action was taken, however, upon the more important recommendation that midway between two censuses a simple enumeration by sex and age should be effected. A return was also prepared in 1891, for Wales, of those who could speak only Welsh, only English, and both languages, but, owing to the inclusion of infants, the results were of little value. In 1901 the same information was called for, excluding all under three years of age. The term tenement, too, was substituted for that of storey, as the subdivision of a house, whilst in addition to inhabited and uninhabited houses, those occupied by day, but not by night, were separately recorded. The nationality of those born abroad, which used to be returned only for British subjects, was called for from all not born within the kingdom.
Scotland.—In the acts relating to the census from 1801 to 1851, provision for the enumeration of Scotland was made with that for England and Wales, allowance being made for the differences in procedure, which mainly concerned the agency to be employed. In 1855, however, civil registration of births and deaths was established in Scotland, and the conduct of the census of 1861 was, by a separate act, entrusted to the registrar-general