John Graunt's analysis of the London Bills of Mortality of 1662 is famous as a pioneering contribution to the study of human populations. But comparatively little attention has been given to his highly influential discovery that the numbers of men and women were evenly balanced. Why did Graunt think that what we now call the sex ratio was important, and why did he see it as essential to contradict received opinion? What can we deduce about Graunt's own attitudes to women? Why was he concerned to discredit polygamy? Further investigation suggests, not that Graunt shared the misogyny of many of his contemporaries, but that he was motivated by the dangers inherent in his own shifting religious views, which included Socinianism and anti-Trinitarianism. The religious controversialist Bernardino Ochino can be detected as a dark influence behind Graunt's thinking. An exploration of Graunt's cultural hinterland confirms that men did indeed believe that they were outnumbered by women, a conviction accentuated by the unnerving upheavals of religious conflict, plague, and civil war, and apparently confirmed by prophecy. Seventeenth-century misogyny seems to present itself to us as qualitative, but it included a numerical dimension which was in effect culturally determined.
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