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The Religious Question in the United Kingdom Census, 1801–2011

  • A. J. CHRISTOPHER (a1)
Abstract

It is notable that, in contrast to Ireland, there was no religious question in the decennial censuses of Great Britain in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Parliament debated and determined the contents of the enumeration and the inclusion of religion was keenly disputed until 1914. The debates raised issues of religious liberty, church establishment and practical applicability. However, census-taking required broad public cooperation and the possibility of widespread opposition to the question led to its repeated exclusion. Only in the twenty-first century was the religious question reconsidered and included, as a result of changes in British society.

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10 Jones, K. W., ‘Religious identity and the Indian census’, in Barrier, N. G. (ed.), The census in British India: new perspectives, New Delhi 1981, 73101. See also Maheshwari, S., The census administration under the Raj and after, New Delhi 1996, and Mohanty, S. P. and Momin, A. R., Census as social document, Jaipur 1996.

11 Anderson, M. J., The American census: a social document, New Haven 1988; United States Census Bureau, Measuring America: the decennial censuses from 1790 to 2000, Washington 2002, 119–24.

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14 Weller, P., ‘Identity, politics, and the future(s) of religion in the UK: the case of the religion questions in the 2001 decennial census’, Journal of Comparative Religion xix (2004), 321 at p. 5.

15 Higgs, Making sense of the census, 4–7.

16 Abstract of the answers and returns made pursuant to an act, passed in the forty-first year of His Majesty King George III, 1801–2 (9), vi.3.

17 Abstract of the answers and returns made pursuant to an act passed in the first year of the reign of His Majesty King George IV, 1822 (502), xv.

18 Abstract of the answers and returns made pursuant to an act of the united parliament, passed in the 55th year of the reign of his late majesty George the third, 1824 (577), xxii.411.

19 Minutes of evidence taken before the committee on the bill taking an account of the population of Great Britain, and the increase or diminution thereof, 1830, xv.

20 Hansard i. 942–3, 12 Nov. 1830 (O'Connell).

21 First Report of the Commissioners of Public Instruction, Ireland, 1835 (45) xxxiii.1.

22 Ibid. 2.

23 Ibid. 5.

24 Ibid. 6.

25 ‘Report to the Council of the Statistical Society of London, from the committee appointed to consider the best mode of taking the census of the United Kingdom in 1841', JSSL iii (1840), 72–102.

26 Population Bill, 1840 (338) iii.275; Population (Ireland) Bill, 1840 (552), iii. 315.

27 History of the census of 1841, TNA, RG27/1.

28 Circular despatches, registrar-general to secretary of state, 5 Aug. 1842, TNA, CO854/4.

29 Barrow, J. H., Mirror of Parliament, session 1840, volume VI, London 1840, 5050. The pre-1860 debates on the census bills were largely unrecorded in Hansard. They also elicited little reportage in the press.

30 Journal of the House of Lords 1840, 6 Aug., 637.

31 Macourt, M. P. A., ‘The religious inquiry in the Irish census of 1861', Irish Historical Studies xxi (1978), 168–87.

32 ‘Proceedings of the Census Committee of the Statistical Society of London 1850', JSSL xiii (1850), 267–9.

33 Hansard cxi.870, 6 June 1850 (Lewis).

34 United States, The seventh census 1850: report of the superintendent of the census for December 1, 1852, Washington 1853, 29.

35 Census of Great Britain 1851: religious worship, England and Wales, 1852–3 (1690) lxxxix/1, p. cxix.

36 Mann, H., ‘On the statistical position of religious bodies in England and Wales’, JSSL xviii (1855), 141–59.

37 Census of Great Britain 1851: religious worship, p. clxxxii.

38 Fourteenth annual report of the registrar general 1851, 1852–3 (1665), xl. 4–5.

39 Gay, J. D., The geography of religion in England, London 1971, 4563; K. S. Inglis, ‘Patterns of religious worship in 1851', this Journal xi (1960), 74–86; Pickering, W. S. F., ‘The 1851 religious census: a useless experiment?’, British Journal of Sociology xviii (1967), 382407; Thompson, D. M., ‘The religious census of 1851', in Lawton, R. (ed.), The census and social structure, London 1978, 241–88.

40 Gilbert, A. D., Religion and society in industrial England: Church, chapel and social change, 1740–1914, London 1976, 29.

41 ‘Recommendations of the Council of the Statistical Society as regards the census of 1861', JSSL xxiii (1860), 222–3.

42 Hansard clviii.92, 24 Apr. 1860 (Baines).

43 Reports of the Select Committee of the House of Commons on Public Petitions 1860, 1822, PA, HL/CL/PO/6/367.

44 Appendix to the reports of the Select Committee of the House of Lords on Public Petitions 1860 [APP 739]: Petition of the Committee of the Board of Congregational Ministers in and around the Cities of London and Westminster, PA, HL/CL/PO/6/368, 340.

45 Hansard clvii.1766, 25 May 1860 (Lewis).

46 Hansard clix.1695, 11 July 1860 (Baines).

47 Ibid. 1696–7.

48 Ibid. 1698.

49 Ibid. 1729 (Mansell).

50 Ibid. 1735 (Whiteside).

51 Ibid. 1713 (Lewis).

52 Ibid. 1714.

53 Ibid. 1733 (Palmerston).

54 Ibid. 1729 (Mansell).

55 Ibid. 1741.

56 The census of Ireland, 1861, part IV: Report and tables, religious professions, education and occupations of the people, volume I, 1863 (3204–III), lix.1.

57 ‘Recommendations of the Council of the Statistical Society as regards the census of 1871’, JSSL xxxiii (1870), 113.

58 Hansard ccii.1356–57, 4 July 1870 (Bruce).

59 Ibid. cciii.1260, 29 July 1870 (Hay).

60 Ibid. 811, 22 July 1870 (Bruce).

61 Ibid. 812.

62 Ibid. 813 (Baines).

63 Chronicle of Convocation 1870, 6 July, 491

64 Hansard cciii.1404, 2 Aug. 1870 (Exeter).

65 Parry, J. P. and Taylor, S., ‘Introduction: parliament and the Church of England from the Reformation to the twentieth century’, PH xix (2000), 113.

66 ‘Report of a committee with reference to the census of 1881’, JSSL xliii (1880), 134–9.

67 Hansard ccli.557, 8 Mar. 1880 (Cross).

68 Hansard ccliii.179, 17 June 1880 (Gladstone).

69 Hansard ccliv.145, 12 July 1880 (Enfield).

70 ‘Report of the committee with reference to the census of 1891', JRSS li (1888), 816–18.

71 Longstaff, G. B., ‘Suggestions for the census of 1891’, JRSS lii (1889), 436–67.

72 Report of the committee appointed to inquire into certain questions connected with the taking of the census: minutes of evidence, appendices, 1890 (C6071), lviii. 1, p. xi.

73 Larsen, T., ‘A nonconformist conscience? Free Churches in parliament in nineteenth century England’, PH xxiv (2005), 107–19.

74 Bell, P. M. H., Disestablishment in Ireland and Wales, London 1969, 230.

75 Chronicle of Convocation 1890, 8 May, 149–52.

76 Hansard ccxlvii.402, 21 July 1890 (Ritchie).

77 Ibid. 417 (Shaw-Lefevre).

78 Ibid. 518, 22 July 1890 (Dimsdale).

79 Ibid. 520 (Picton).

80 Ibid. 534, division.

81 Reports of the Select Committee of the House of Commons on Public Petitions 1890, PA, HC/CL/JO/6/657, 745.

82 Petition re census from Presbytery of Dumbarton, PA, HL/PO/6/13/52, 16 June 1890.

83 Hansard ccxlvii.538, 22 July 1890 (Somervell).

84 Ibid. 539 (Robertson).

85 Ibid. 540 (Esslemont).

86 ‘The census of 1901, second interim report’, JRSS lxiii(1900), 107–11.

87 Chronicle of Convocation 1900.

88 Reports of the Select Committee of the House of Commons on Public Petitions, 1900, PA, HC/CL/JO/6/783. 14.

89 Hansard lxxx.505, 9 Mar. 1900 (Williams).

90 ‘Report of the census committee, 1908–09’, JRSS lxxiii (1909), 574–93.

91 Report on the census of the British Empire 1901, 1905 (Cd2174), ci.1.

92 Circular despatches, secretary of state to colonial governors, 17 Nov. 1909, TNA, CO854/45.

93 Report of the Royal Commission on the Church of England and other Religious Bodies in Wales and Monmouthshire, 1910 (Cd5432), xiv.1.

94 Hansard xvii (Commons), 1232, 14 June 1910 (Burns).

95 Hansard xviii (Commons), 257, 21 June 1910 (Rawlinson).

96 Ibid. 259 (Jones).

97 Even in Wales more marriages still took place in the Established Church than in Nonconformist chapels, again emphasising the differing approaches to evaluating denominational attachment: Seventy-fourth report of the registrar general 1910, 1911 (Cd5988), xi.1, 206–9.

98 Hansard xviii (Commons), 266, 21 June 1910 (Cecil).

99 Ibid. 290, division.

100 Hansard vi (Lords), 67, 12 July 1910 (Newton).

101 Ibid. 74 (Beauchamp).

102 Ibid. 76 (St Davids).

103 Ibid. 79.

104 Ibid. 89 (Canterbury).

105 Ibid. 90 (Crewe).

106 Ibid. 83 (Lansdowne).

107 Ibid. 94, division.

108 Ibid. 287, 19 July 1910 (Eversley).

109 Ibid. 302, division.

110 Ibid. xix (Commons), 2284, 27 July 1910 (Burns).

111 Ibid. 2294, division.

112 Green, S. J. D., The passing of Protestant England: secularisation and social change c. 1920–1960, Cambridge, 2011, 327.

113 ‘Report on the census’, JRSS lxxxiii (1920), 134–9.

114 Conference of British Commonwealth statisticians, Census Committee minutes and report, TNA, RG47/23, 19 Feb. 1920.

115 Census (Great Britain) Bill, 1920 (171), i. 253; Census (Ireland) Bill, 1920 (197), i. 263.

116 Hansard dcxxii (Commons), 1195–6, 4 May 1960 (Macpherson).

117 Northern Ireland, Census of population 1926, general report, Belfast 1929, p. li.

118 Doherty, P. and Poole, M. A., ‘Religion as an indicator of ethnicity in Northern Ireland: an alternative approach’, Irish Geography xxxv (2002), 7588.

119 Northern Ireland, Northern Ireland census 2001, general report, Belfast 2006, 82.

120 The 2001 census of population, 1999 (Cm4253), 40.

121 Sherif, J., ‘A census chronicle: reflections on the campaign for a religion question in the 2001 census for England and Wales’, Journal of Beliefs and Values xxxii (2011), 118.

122 Census (Amendment) Bill [HL], 1999–2000 (100).

123 Hansard dcviii (Lords), 1709, 27 Jan. 2000 (Weatherill).

124 Ibid. 1711 (Newby).

125 Ibid. 1719 (McIntosh).

126 Sherif, ‘A census chronicle’, 10–11.

127 Hansard ccclii (Commons), 266, 20 June 2000 (Sayeed).

128 Ibid. 281 (Mactaggart).

129 Ibid. 271 (Hogg).

130 Ibid. 280 (Forth).

131 Ibid. 310, division.

132 Office for National Statistics, Census 2001, definitions. London 2004, 86.

133 Report of the Royal Commission on the Reform of the House of Lords: a house for the future, 2000 (Cm4534), 155–8.

134 Debates of the Scottish Parliament, 13 Jan. 2000 (Wallace).

135 Ibid. 16 Feb. 2000 (Wallace).

136 Ibid. (Monteith).

137 Office for National Statistics, Census 2001, 86.

138 Hansard dccxiv (Lords), WA35, 3 Nov. 2009 (Crawley).

The financial assistance of the National Research Foundation towards the costs of this research is hereby acknowledged. The opinions expressed in this article and the conclusions arrived at are those of the author and are not necessarily to be attributed to the National Research Foundation.

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