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The Politics of Population: State Formation, Statistics, and the Census of Canada, 1840-1875 [Paperback]

Bruce Curtis
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

Nov. 4 2002 0802085857 978-0802085856

Inspired by recent developments in social theory and based on extensive archival research, this book provides the first systematic analysis of the developing knowledge capacities of the state in Victorian Canada. No government can intensively administer citizens about whom it knows nothing. The centralization of knowledge in the form of official statistics was an important dimension of state formation. The census of population was the leading project for the production of social intelligence.

"The Politics of Population" provides a detailed account of the political and social context in which census-making developed in Canada. It deals with census-making as a political project, investigating its place in and impact on party politics and ethnic, religious, and sectional struggles. It also looks closely at census-making as an administrative practice, identifying the main census managers and outlining the organization of five attempts at census-making between 1842 and 1850, before following in detail how census-making finally unfolded between 1852 and 1871. Curtis examines parliamentary debate and governmental reports, but he also follows census enumerators into the field and traces how what they saw was worked up into 'official statistics.' Theoretically, the manuscript engages in a critical dialogue with work in the history of statistics, studies of state formation, social studies of scientific knowledge, and work in the field of 'governmentality.'

Winner of the Sir John A. Macdonald Prize, awarded by the Canadian Historical Association, and the John Porter Prize, awarded by the Canadian Sociology and Anthropology Association.


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The Politics of Population: State Formation, Statistics, and the Census of Canada, 1840-1875 + The Patriots and the People: The Rebellion of 1837 in Rural Lower Canada
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Review

'I cannot recommend this book too highly. Reading The Politics of Population is a most rewarding experience; I learned a lot from it. This book is the product of mature reflection and prodigious research.'

(David Levine Canadian Journal of Sociology Online)

About the Author

Bruce Curtis is a professor of Sociology and of History at Carleton University.


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Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Beneficial Resource Oct. 6 2013
By JG
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book is an indispensable resource for academics, students, individuals in Statistics Canada, the Department of Agriculture, history dilettantes or anyone interested in census taking from 1840 (really 1831) to the mid-1870s in Canada.

The first chapter, as well as the last chapter, contain social theory. The rest of the book highlights the political ramifications of a census and how it tries to encapsulate bodies solidified in time and space and how this can act as a tool for authority (see: power/knowledge), although really its main focus just a historical account of events in the aforementioned time frame. As the book emphasizes, censuses are not taken, they are made.

The book discusses census enumeration under three authorities, Walter Crofton, William Hutton and Joseph-Charles Tache (with an accent grav on the 'e').

Before reading this book, familiarity with a de jure, as opposed to a de facto census is required. There is also some knowledge of representation by population needed (as this becomes a key component of the author's argument that censuses have political significance). With these few terms under one's belt, the book reads very easily. It is well researched and academically valuable, but reads easily enough for passive readers to enjoy or those looking for a relatively simple read. The author spells out key issues well and emphasizes key historical dates when required.
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