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The Statistical Table as Colonial Knowledge


The statistical table is one expression of the settler colonial capacity and willingness to enumerate colonized “peoples” as “populations.” By examining four tables—from 1763, 1828, 1848, and 1850—in Canada, New Zealand, and Australia this paper illustrates the emergence of this powerful technique of representation during the same a period in which European states were developing their capacity to represent the social in statistical terms. In the colonial context, the rise of the notion of a “population” whose characteristics could be averaged contributed to the specifically administrative eclipse of native sovereignty, paralleling the jural/political demise of native sovereignty.

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Tim Rowse is a Professor Emeritus in the Institute of Culture and Society (Western Sydney University) and a School Visitor in the Research School of Social Sciences (The Australian National University). He has been studying settler colonial history (mainly Australian) since the early 1980s. His most recent book is Rethinking Social Justice: From “Peoples” To “Populations” (Aboriginal Studies Press 2012); with Lisa Ford he edited Between Indigenous and Settler Governance (Routledge 2012).

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This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

Alain Beaulieu . “An Equitable Right to be Compensated: The Dispossession of the Aboriginal Peoples of Quebec and the Emergence of a New Legal Rationale (1760–1860).” Canadian Historical Review 94:1 (2013): 127.

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D. Eastwood Amplifying the Province of the Legislature: The Flow of Information and the English State in the Early Nineteenth Century.” Historical Research 62 (1989): 276294.

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Lawrence Goldman . “Statistics and the Science of Society in Early Victorian Britain: An Intellectual Context for the General Register Office.” Social History of Medicine 4:3 (1991): 415434.

Ian Hacking . The Taming of Chance. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990.

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Ted McCormick . “Political Arithmetic’s 18th Century Histories: Quantification in Politics, Religion, and the Public Sphere.” History Compass 12:3 (2014): 239251.

Charles S Maier . “Consigning the Twentieth Century to History: Alternative Narratives for the Modern Era.” American Historical Review 105:3 (June 2000): 807831.

Cary Miller . “Gifts as Treaties: The Political Use of Received Gifts in Anishinaabeg Communities, 1820–1832.” American Indian Quarterly 26:2 (Spring 2002): 221245.

Tim Rowse . “Official Statistics and the Contemporary Politics of Indigeneity.” Australian Journal of Political Science 44:2 (June 2009): 193211.

Tim Rowse . “The Ontological Politics of Closing the Gaps.” Journal of Cultural Economy 2:1–2 (March 2009): 3348. Reprinted in Assembling Culture. Edited by Tony Bennett and Chris Healy, 30–45. London: Routledge, 2011.

Tim Rowse . “Population Knowledge and the Practice of Guardianship.” American Nineteenth Century History 15:1 (2014): 1542.

Tim Rowse . “‘Rooted in Demographic Reality’: The Contribution of New World Censuses to Indigenous Survival.” History and Anthropology 25:2 (2014): 246262.

Tim Rowse and Tiffany Shellam . “The Colonial Emergence of a Statistical Imaginary.” Comparative Studies in Society and History 55:4 (October 2013): 922954.

Richard White . The Middle Ground: Indians, Empires, and Republics in the Great Lakes Region, 1650–1815. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1991.

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