17/09/2014 14:00 - 15:00
John Rickman who oversaw the overseers in the first four British censuses (1801 through 1831) died suddenly in 1840. Radical changes had been proposed for 1841 and were soon legislated and implemented. The result was the first modern census and the first-ever intrusion by the central government into the lives of every household by requiring that they fill up householders’ schedules (HSs). These primary sources have been said, until now, to have been destroyed in 1904. This talk will discuss the recent discovery of all of the HSs, 493 in number, for all thirteen enumeration districts in Shropshire’s Cainham-Ludlow Registration District. The unwieldy foolscap delivered to every dwelling in England and Wales several days before 7 June 1841 is illustrated and described in detail including the intimidating writ on its face and the directions for filling up each of the six columns on the working side. One illustrative householder’s performance is examined in detail.
There were 210 householders who completed their own schedules. It is these documents which are of greatest interest because by comparing and contrasting the results across thirteen enumeration districts this article answers key questions which historians have raised over the years regarding the Victorian enumeration process. Did householders complete their own schedules? Did they understand and follow directions? What social variables are associated with the quality of their performance? Did the enumerators follow the separate and more detailed instructions issued to them? What errors of commission and omission and other changes were made by the enumerators in the process of creating the census enumerator’s books? Conclusions are drawn regarding the significance of the HSs to our better understanding of the widely used secondary evidence.
A one-hour lecture with Dr Donald Davis
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