1st Edition

Statistics and the Public Sphere Numbers and the People in Modern Britain, c. 1800-2000

Edited By Tom Crook, Glen O'Hara Copyright 2011

    Contemporary public life in Britain would be unthinkable without the use of statistics and statistical reasoning. Numbers dominate political discussion, facilitating debate while also attracting criticism on the grounds of their veracity and utility. However, the historical role and place of statistics within Britain’s public sphere has yet to receive the attention it deserves. There exist numerous histories of both modern statistical reasoning and the modern public sphere; but to date, there are no works which, quite pointedly, aim to analyse the historical entanglement of the two. Statistics and the Public Sphere: Numbers and the People in Modern Britain, c.1800-2000 directly addresses this neglected area of historiography, and in so doing places the present in some much needed historical perspective.

    Introduction: Numbers and the people in modern British history (Tom Crook and Glen O’Hara, Oxford Brookes University) 1. Statistics and the career of public reason, 1820-1960: Engagement and detachment in a quantified society (Theodore M. Porter, University of California, Los Angeles) PART ONE: Rethinking statistics and the public sphere 2. The state and statistics in Victorian and Edwardian Britain: Promotion of the public sphere or boundary maintenance? (Edward Higgs, University of Essex) 3. Suspect figures: Statistics and public trust in Victorian England (Tom Crook, Oxford Brookes University) 4. Numbers and narratives: Statistical realism, bureaucratic fiction and affective aggregation, 1830-1880 (Maeve Adams, New York University) PART TWO: The business of public numbers 5. The politics of statistics in late eighteenth-century Britain: From Richard Price to Henry Beeke (Richard Sheldon, University of Bristol) 6. ‘In these you may trust’: Statistics and the economics of overseeing, c. 1790-c. 1840 (Steven King, Oxford Brookes University) 7. Gentlemen capitalists? The Independent West Middlesex Fire and Life Assurance Company fraud (James Taylor, Lancaster University) PART THREE: Statistics, political numeracy and public debate 8. Population statistics and the 1832 Reform Act (S.J. Thompson, University of Cambridge) 9. Printed statistics and the public sphere: Numeracy, party politics and the visual culture of numbers, 1880-1914 (James Thompson, University of Bristol) 10. A ‘naked strength and beauty’: Statistics in the British tariff debate, 1880-1914 (Edmund Rogers, University of Cambridge) PART FOUR: Twentieth-century innovations 11. Polling public opinion before opinion polling: The Conservative Party and electoral prediction between the wars (Laura Beers, University of Cambridge) 12. Power to ‘consumers’ or ‘the people’? Market research and the conceptualization of affluence and the ‘good society’ in Britain, 1920-1960 (Stefan Schwarzkopf, Queen Mary, University of London) 13. Foreign exemplars and national statistics: The French model of economic data-collection in Britain, c.1951-1973 (Glen O’Hara, Oxford Brookes University) Conclusion: New histories of an enumerated people (Tom Crook and Glen O’Hara, Oxford Brookes University)


    Tom Crook is Lecturer in Modern British History at Oxford Brookes University. He has published in Social History, Urban History and Journal of Victorian Culture. He is currently completing a book-length study entitled Time and the Social Body: Public Health and English Modernity, 1830-1914.

    Glen O’Hara is Senior Lecturer in Modern History at Oxford Brookes University. He is the author of Britain and the Sea since 1600 (2010), From Dreams to Disillusionment; Economic and Social Planning in 1960s Britain (2007), and the co-editor of The Modernisation of Britain? Harold Wilson and the Labour Governments of 1964-1970 (2006).

    "Unlike many books that collect together papers on a particular subject, this volume has coherence and has the advantage of being a good read." -Iain Smith, The Historical Association

    “This is a welcome collection of essays that yields important insights into the history of the modern British state, the public, and the evolving use of statistical knowledge.”-J.F. Mayer, University of Edinburgh