A Brief History of Statistics

Everything in this world has a history, even numbers and how we use them. Statistics in the UK has a long history, but the origins of the country’s current statistics system can be dated back to 1941 when the Central Statistical Office was established to improve the consistency of statistical data.

The First Census in the UK's Statistic

Going further back into the shrouds of history, we find that the very first census was held by William the Conqueror in England and Wales, the findings of which were then published in the Doomsday Book, but unlike modern census, it did not provide a complete account of the people living in England then. The next notable census was carried out around 500 years later by Elizabeth I, who used a much simpler technique by asking bishops to count the number of families in their dioceses. The same method was adopted by James I (James VI of Scotland) later in the 1600s.

Statistics during the 19th century

The First Census in the UK's StatisticImage WikipediaThe first regular and official ‘Census of Population’ for Great Britain was not held until Monday, 10th March 1801. This census showed that the total population of England and Wales was 8.87 million. In 1837, the Births and Deaths Registration Act and the Marriage Act received Royal Assent, thereby bringing into the public sphere a secure system to record births, deaths, and marriages. This made conducting future censuses much easier. The General Register Office (GRO), which is an official government body acting as a civil registry in the United Kingdom, and many other Commonwealth nations in the past, was first established in England and Wales in 1837. This was followed by a GRO in Scotland in 1855, where compulsory civil registration began on the 1st of January.

Coverage of marriages and deaths from that time period seem to be complete. Ireland was the last to establish a General Register Office, in 1864, that being the first year for the registration of births and deaths in that region. Classification of causes of death was seen for the first time in 1839, devised by the Registrar General, with the help of William Farr, a British physician who pioneered the quantitative study of morbidity and mortality. He helped in establishing the field of medical statistics. The first modern ‘Census of Population’ was carried out by the Registrar General in 1841—so-called because it required every household to provide a self-completed form with the names and characteristics of every member of their household. This system of collecting data has remained more or less unchanged to the present day.

Statistics in the 20th century

Just after the breakout of the Second World War, the 1939 Register provides a snapshot of the entire population of England and Wales at that time and was used to issue identity cards and to organize mass evacuations in case of emergencies. Next year, with the war still knocking on the doorsteps of this island nation, the Government Social Survey was created, which began as the Wartime Social Survey.

1941 marked the only year in which no census was held since 1801, owing to the war that made such a thorough and usually languid process impossible. This was also the year when the Central Statistical Office was created.

In 1952, the National Health Service Central Register was formed from National Registration Records to record overall health statistics, sixteen years later, Claus Moser, now Lord Moser, laid the foundation of the Government Statistical Service. A year later, in 1949, the Business Statistics office was created. In 1970, the General Register Office was merged with the Government Social Survey, creating the Office of Population Censuses and Surveys (OPCS), which was later merged with CSO and the statistical divisions of the Department of Employment to form the Office for National Statistics in 1996.

Statistics and Data Analysis nowadays

UK Statistics AuthorityImage UK Statistics AuthorityIn more recent history, 2000 saw the establishment of the Statistics Commission, which was a public body created to oversee the work of the Office of National Statistics, and in 2005 announcements were made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer about his will to legislate for the independence of statistics. The Statistics and Registration Services Bill was introduced in Parliament in 2006, which received Royal Assent and became an Act in 2007, and was later brought into force on the 1st of April 2008, when the UK Statistics Authority was established, on abolishing Statistics Commission.

In 2010, ONS launched a program of work to measure the national well-being, including a national debate, which was used to gather information on what people consider most important to them. ONS published its first Annual Experimentation Subjective Wellbeing Results in 2012. Also, in 2012, the responsibility of publishing crime statistics was transferred to the ONS, and the British Crime Survey became known as the Crime Survey of England and Wales.

Understanding Statistics - Basic Glossary

Statistics - Basic Glossary

Studying statistical charts and graphs can sometimes be a little confusing, mostly due to the used terminology. For that purpose, here is a glossary of some of the most common words and phrases that one might encounter:

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Events on statistics and data analysis

Events on statistical analysis

In this article you wiil learn about upcoming events concerning statistics in the UK. Make sure you attend and participate in at least a few if you happen to be close-by.

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