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Europe by numbers
Author: Nico Randeraad

This book is a history of an illusion. It is also a history of the dream that preceded the illusion. The book discusses statistics as the field of tension between the scientific claims of neutrality and universality on the one hand and the political and economic reality of the conflicting interests of nation-states on the other. The various paths of state- and nation-building that European countries traversed in the nineteenth century are recognisable in the objectives of government statistics and are reflected in the topics selected for statistical study and in the categories used in the research. Each congress was clearly dominated by the specific interests of the country in which the statisticians convened. The book shows in each case how the organisation of government statistics and national concerns influenced the international agenda. It describes the perceptions, goals and dilemmas of the protagonists and their contact with each other, and in so doing unravels the complex relationships between science, government and society, wherever possible from their point of view. The genesis of international statistics was inspired by a desire for reform. Belgium's pioneering role in the European statistical movement was informed both by its liberal polity and the special status of statistics within it, and by Adolphe Quetelet's key position as an intellectual. The consolidation of the Grand Duchy of Baden, a new medium-sized state in the Rhine Confederation and later in the German Confederation, offered great opportunities for the development of official statistics.

Nico Randeraad

, the director of government statistics in Austria, had made a big impression at the congresses in Brussels and Paris, not least on Leopold von Ranke, who characterised him as someone who ‘lives entirely in the present, strong and resolute, with a broad world view’.1 Czoernig was a man of many talents. Besides being a statistician, he was also a creative artist. In 1856 he painted Ansicht des Dachsteins, a work that ended up in the collection of the Louvain town hall in 1879 through the agency of Xavier Heuschling, Quetelet’s right hand.2 Czoernig, born in

in States and statistics in the nineteenth century
Open Access (free)
Nico Randeraad

were laid for government statistics in the first decade of the nineteenth century. Nineteenth-century governments clung to the idea that solutions to social problems could be derived from systematic, empirical observation of a quantitative and qualitative nature. How this idea was put into practice differed intro.indd 1 02/12/2009 12:05:18 States and statistics in the nineteenth century from state to state. In the same way that statistics did not develop linearly as a branch of knowledge, no uniform European model of statistics as a branch of government emerged

in States and statistics in the nineteenth century
Nico Randeraad

organisation of government statistics. And in his view organisation was the most pressing of political issues. The politics of unification was based on public opinion, and public opinion had to be fed with systematically collected and neatly arranged facts. Statistical inquiries needed to be fast, uniform, comprehensive and, above all, accurate. Like the justice system, statistics had to be fully autonomous and independent, because ‘governing is a special way of evaluating or anticipating social data’.16 What kind of institution would fit these requirements? Foreign examples

in States and statistics in the nineteenth century
Nico Randeraad

, since that is what was stated in the programme. However, the mood was not as harmonious as it seemed. It was clear to everyone that politics had to be kept at bay, but they sensed that domestic and international political relations would make it difficult to maintain scientific neutrality, a feature of statistics that they all held sacred. The sheer diversity in the methods of organising government ­statistics pointed to governing traditions and principles that could not easily be harmonised. The idea of an international congress was born during the Great Exhibition

in States and statistics in the nineteenth century
Nico Randeraad

could claim superiority over other parties when it came to government statistics. Dupin made that perfectly clear. The French government had been ordering intendants in the provinces to gather statistical information since the time of Louis XIV. Under Napoleon I, official statistics received new impulses, and the French Restoration sparked important initiatives, which were imitated by the Belgians and the British. In Dupin’s view, the conquest of Algeria was also a victory for statistics: ‘Statistics concerning that land, which have been gradually perfected

in States and statistics in the nineteenth century
Open Access (free)
Nico Randeraad

Budapest, Engel admitted that the congress had accomplished only a fraction of the objectives its resolutions were intended to fulfil. But in making this observation Engel had overlooked the law of unintended consequences, perhaps the only law that nineteenth-century statisticians were loathe to understand, but it applied to them nonetheless. Though standardisation remained elusive, government statistics organisations in European countries were undergoing a process of convergence. Statistics experts formed an international network and maintained contact with one another

in States and statistics in the nineteenth century
Nico Randeraad

denying the pre-revolutionary roots of statistics, it can be said that the Batavian–French Revolution ignited the development of government statistics.10 Once the organs of public administration and, to a lesser extent, parliament had sampled the benefits of statistical information, they could no longer go without. What had been introduced in the Batavian–French period survived in one form or other after 1815. That is to say, the statistics remained, but organisation and methods of collecting data tended to change. The political climate was not conducive to increasing

in States and statistics in the nineteenth century
Nico Randeraad

flat. Britain itself is a case in point. In the first half of the century, the development of British statistics was more varied than Sinclair’s dichotomy would suggest. There was great political freedom, which meant it was possible to experiment with statistics in many different areas. Since 1801 Britain had been conducting a census every ten years. Initially the counts were crude but they foreshadowed a more extensive government statistics; Malthus’s frightening proposition that population growth could only be restrained by famine, disease and crime sparked an

in States and statistics in the nineteenth century
Open Access (free)
Bonnie Evans

these diverse domains of human knowledge should not be underestimated. Notes 1 Department for Education, Statistics (2016), online: www.gov.uk/government/statistics/special-educational-needs-in-england-january-2016 . Statistics (2015), online: www.gov.uk/government/statistics/special-educational-needs-in-england-january-2015

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