A clear knowledge of the total population figure is fundamental to the functioning of a modern country. Forward planning by the government for all social and economic policies relies on this knowledge. Obviously in the 21st century the government needs to know much more than the global figure but the basic premise still stands.
Governments through history have wondered as to their nation’s population, William I ‘Domesday Book’ of 1086 being a well-known example. Assessments of population often had an initial objective and a longer term objective. William I’s initial objective was to record, and embed, the new landowning situation and to determine the distribution of wealth ahead of taxation measures. In the 16th century there was a dramatic rise in the national population and, particularly in the reign of Elizabeth I, there was fear that this was related to the rise in numbers of vagabonds. It was at this time that some attempt at population figures became possible with the requirement to keep church records (recording by the incumbent of baptisms, marriages and burials).
It was partly as a response to Rev. Thomas Malthus’ (s.p.b.) Essay on Population, published in the 1790s, that Prime Minister Pitt the Younger (see above picture) instituted the first national census in 1801. The system of a national census every tenth year thereafter continued (except for 1941) and continues still. The initiative for the first national census came from a high-ranking government official of the day called John Rickman. Whether or not he was related to Thomas Rickman, author of the 1817 publication Attempt to Discriminate the Styles of English Architecture (s.p.b.), I don’t know. In 1801 Thomas Rickman was a young man.
So it logically follows that having knowledge of the population requires some control of the population.
(To be continued).