Lawrence Goldman (St Peter’s College, Oxford): The Statistical Moment in Britain, 1825-1835: Social Science, Political Reform, Modernity

The nineteenth century was
the age of statistics. For the
first time numerical social data
was collected systematically,
analysed and used in the
construction of social science
and social policy. This paper
will re-­examine the origins of
the so-­called ‘statistical
movement’ in Britain which
emerged in the late 1820s and
which coincided and informed
the political and social reforms of the next decade. Rather than a single movement, the
statistical project differed in each of its key locations: in Manchester, statistics informed
bourgeois municipal reform;; in Cambridge, the collection of numbers was the foundation
for a social science;; in Westminster, numbers were collected to inform national policy;; in
the streets of Clerkenwell, they supported a radical critique of both the British ‘ancien
regime’ and the whig reforms which replaced it. Intriguingly, we can also draw a line from
the statistical movement of the 1820s to the present digital age.

Lawrence Goldman was educated in Cambridge and taught modern
British and American History for 30 years in Oxford. His published work
ranges across political and social history and the history of social
science. He is the author of books on workers’ education in Britain and
on Victorian social science, and of a biography of the socialist thinker
and historian, R. H. Tawney. He was the Editor of the Oxford Dictionary
of National Biography 2004-­2014. Following a period as Director of the
Institute of Historical Research in London, he is now Senior Research
Fellow of St. Peter’s College, Oxford, and is working on a book entitled
‘Victorians and Numbers’.

Date & time

Wed 16 Oct 2019, 4.15–5.30pm


McDonald Room, Menzies Library


Lawrence Goldman (St Peter’s College, Oxford)

Event series


School of History


School of History


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