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CENSUS (from Lat. censere, to estimat...

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Originally appearing in Volume V05, Page 663 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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CENSUS (from Lat. censere, to estimate or assess; connected by some with centum, i.e. a count by hundreds), a term used to denote a periodical enumeration restricted; in modern times; to population, and occasionally to industries and agricultural resources, but formerly extending to property of all kinds, for the purpose of assessment.later into an electoral record. It was in Rome, however, that the system from which the, name of the inquiry is derived was first established upon a regular footing. The original census was ascribed to Servius Tullius, and in the constitution which goes by his name it was decreed that' every fifth year the population should be enumerated along with the property of each family—land, live-stock, slaves and freedmen. The main object was to ensure the accurate division of the people into the six main classes and their respective centuries, which were based upon considerations of combined numbers and wealth. With the increase of the city the operation grew in importance, and was followed by an official lustrum, or purificatory sacrifice, offered on behalf of the people by the censors or functionaries in charge of the classification. Hence the name of lustrum came to denote the intercensal term, or a period of five years. The word census, too, came to mean the property qualification of the class, as well as the process of registering the resources of the individual. Later, it was used in the sense of the imposition itself, in which it has survived in the contracted form of cess. Unfortunately the statistics of population thus collected were subordinated to the fiscal interests of the inquiry, and no record has been handed down relating to the population of the city and its neighbourhood. In the time of Augustus the census was extended to the whole empire. In the words of the Gospel of St Luke, he ordered " the whole world to be taxed," or, according to the revised version, to be enrolled. The compilation of the results of this the most comprehensive enumeration till then attempted was engaging the attention of the emperor, it is said, just; before his death, but was never completed. The various inquiries instituted during the middle ages, such as the Domesday Book and the Breviary of Charlemagne, were so far on the Roman model that they took little or no account of the population, the feudal system probably rendering information regarding it unnecessary for the purposes of taxation or military service. The foundations of the census on the modern system were laid in Europe towards the middle or end of the 17th century: Sweden led the way, by making compulsory the parish record of births, deaths and marriages, kept by the clergy, and extending it to include the whole of the domiciled population of the parish. In France, Colbert, in 167o, ordered the extension to the rural communes of the system which had for many years been in force in Paris of registering and periodically publishing the• domestic occurrences of the locality. Five years before this, however, a periodical enumeration by families and individuals had Wen established in the colony of New France, and was continued in Quebec from 1665 till 1754. This, therefore, may be considered to be the earliest of modern censuses. ".Efforts have been almost unceasingly made since 1872 by statistical experts in periodical conference to bring about a general understanding, first, as to the subjects which may be considered most likely to be ascertained with approximate accuracy at a census, and secondly—a point of scarcely less importance—as to the form in which the results of the inquiry should be compiled in order to render comparison possible between the facts recorded in the different areas. In regard to the scope of the inquiry, it is recognized that much is practicable in a country where the agency of trained officials is employed throughout the operation which cannot be expected to be adequately recorded where the responsibility for the correctness of the replies is thrown upon the householder. The standard set up by eminent statisticians, therefore, may be taken to represent an ideal, not likely to be attained anywhere under present conditions, but towards which each successive census may be expected to advance. The subjects to which most importance is attached from the international standpoint are age, sex, civil condition, birthplace, illiteracy and certain infirmities. Occupation, too, should be included, but the record of so detailed a subject is usually considered to be better obtained by a special inquiry, rather than by the rough and ready methods of a synchronous enumeration. This course has been adopted in Germany, Belgium and France, and an approach to it is made in the decennial census of Canada and the United States. Religious denomination, another of the general subjects suggested, is of considerably more importance in some countries than in others, and the same may be said of nationality, which is often usefully supplemented by the return of mother-tongue. Nor should it be forgotten that the internal classification and the combinations of the above subjects are also matters to be treated upon some uniform plan, if the full value of the statistics is to be extracted from the raw material. On the whole, the progress towards a general understanding on many, if not most, of the questions here mentioned which has been made in the present generation, is a gratifying tribute to those who have long laboured in the cause of efficient enumeration.
End of Article: CENSUS (from Lat. censere, to estimate or assess; connected by some with centum, i.e. a count by hundreds)
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