Life, Death and Statistics

Edward Higgs, Life, Death and Statistics: Civil Registration, Censuses and the Work of the General Register Office, 1836-1952 (Hatfield, 2004). £10 including postage and packing

Life, Death and Statistics is a history of the key institution in the production of demographic data in England and Wales in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries – the General Register Office (GRO). The GRO was responsible for the civil registration system and the taking of the decennial censuses, from which it produced statistics on population, occupational structures, birth rates, mortality and causes of death. Without this information our understanding of the social and demographic history of these periods would be greatly impoverished. The book places the work of the GRO in a broad intellectual, institutional and political framework, and shows how this influenced and constrained the information it published. Life, Death and Statistics will be of interest to anyone concerned with the modern historical demography and social and economic history of England and Wales.


Origins: civil registration in early Victorian England.

The genesis of state medical statistics.

The expansion of the GRO’s statistical functions in the High Victorian period.

Late Victorian medical statistics in an age of inertia.

1900-1914: eugenics and the GRO’s Indian summer.

State medical statistics, the dawn of computing and the Edwardian mathematical revolution.

1914-1951: registration and statistics in total war and total welfare.


Appendix 1: Registrar General’s annual reports, statistical reviews and Decennial supplements, 1838-1951.

Consolidated bibliography


To order this book, please contact the Editor of Local Population Studies, Dr Andrew Hinde, 8 Anstey Mill Lane, Alton, Hampshire GU34 2QP ( OR