Skip to main content Skip to search Skip to search

History General

The Politics of Population

State Formation, Statistics, and the Census of Canada, 1840-1875

by (author) Bruce Curtis

University of Toronto Press, Scholarly Publishing Division
Initial publish date
Nov 2002
General, Demography, Public Affairs & Administration
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Nov 2002
    List Price
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Mar 2001
    List Price
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Feb 2001
    List Price

Add it to your shelf

Where to buy it


Inspired by recent developments in social theory and based on extensive archival research, this book provides the first systematic analysis of the developing knowledge capacities of the state in Victorian Canada. No government can intensively administer citizens about whom it knows nothing. The centralization of knowledge in the form of official statistics was an important dimension of state formation. The census of population was the leading project for the production of social intelligence.

"The Politics of Population" provides a detailed account of the political and social context in which census-making developed in Canada. It deals with census-making as a political project, investigating its place in and impact on party politics and ethnic, religious, and sectional struggles. It also looks closely at census-making as an administrative practice, identifying the main census managers and outlining the organization of five attempts at census-making between 1842 and 1850, before following in detail how census-making finally unfolded between 1852 and 1871. Curtis examines parliamentary debate and governmental reports, but he also follows census enumerators into the field and traces how what they saw was worked up into 'official statistics.' Theoretically, the manuscript engages in a critical dialogue with work in the history of statistics, studies of state formation, social studies of scientific knowledge, and work in the field of 'governmentality.'

Winner of the Sir John A. Macdonald Prize, awarded by the Canadian Historical Association, and the John Porter Prize, awarded by the Canadian Sociology and Anthropology Association.

About the author

BRUCE CURTIS is Professor of Sociology at Carleton University.

Bruce Curtis' profile page


  • Winner, John Porter Memorial Book Prize, Canadian Sociology & Anthropology Association
  • Winner, Sir John A. Macdonald Prize, Canadian Historical Association

Editorial Reviews

'I cannot recommend this book too highly. Reading The Politics of Population is a most rewarding experience; I learned a lot from it. This book is the product of mature reflection and prodigious research.'

Canadian Journal of Sociology Online

Other titles by Bruce Curtis