Introduction
in States and statistics in the nineteenth century

In the Napoleonic Age, statistics became an established part of the administrative repertoire. 'Statistical research,' wrote the Frenchman Alfred Legoyt in 1860, 'leads to the discovery of the laws of the moral world as sure as astronomical observations lead to the establishment of laws in the physical world'. The Belgian Adolphe Quetelet was the initiator of the first international statistical congress, which was held in Brussels in 1853. The international statistical congresses soon had to abandon their cosmopolitan character and, to the confusion and annoyance of statisticians themselves, became the battleground for national interests. The chapter also presents an overview of the concepts discussed in this book. The book describes the perceptions, goals and dilemmas of the protagonists and their contact with each other and traces the international statistical congresses held in various European cities between 1853 and 1876.

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