The Sum of the People: How the Census Has Shaped Nations, from the Ancient World to the Modern Age

Basic. Mar. 2020. 368p. ISBN 9781541619340. $30. POL SCI
Economist and data scientist Whitby presents a timely and eye-opening look at the 3,000-year history of census taking from around the globe, how this task can tell the story of the world’s people, and where the census might be headed in the future. The year 2020 marks the decennial census that many nations will conduct, including the United States. To show how the census has come to be, and how it developed significant political and economic impact, Whitby shares its history. This includes how the census was once used as a “mechanism for state formation and control” to satisfy the needs of despots, but also utilized by the powerless as a way for minority self-expression and a canvas for protest. It has also been used as a tactic for nation-building and to assert territorial claim. Whitby asserts that the census as we know it today is in jeopardy due to the variety of other methods, including ubiquitous surveillance practices, that have been deployed to identify each citizen.
VERDICT An important, accessible, and engaging book that will find a varied audience from readers of political science, history, economics, and national security.
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