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

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

by Andrew Whitby


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This fascinating three-thousand-year history of the census traces the making of the modern survey and explores its political power in the age of big data and surveillance.

In April 2020, the United States will embark on what has been called "the largest peacetime mobilization in American history": the decennial population census. It is part of a tradition of counting people that goes back at least three millennia and now spans the globe.

In The Sum of the People, data scientist Andrew Whitby traces the remarkable history of the census, from ancient China and the Roman Empire, through revolutionary America and Nazi-occupied Europe, to the steps of the Supreme Court. Marvels of democracy, instruments of exclusion, and, at worst, tools of tyranny and genocide, censuses have always profoundly shaped the societies we've built. Today, as we struggle to resist the creep of mass surveillance, the traditional census — direct and transparent — may offer the seeds of an alternative.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781541619340
Publisher: Basic Books
Publication date: 03/31/2020
Pages: 368
Sales rank: 1,124,213
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.50(d)

About the Author

Andrew Whitby is an economist and data scientist with a PhD in econometrics from the University of Oxford. Most recently, he worked in the development data group of the World Bank, where he was coeditor of the Atlas of the Sustainable Development Goals. He lives in Brooklyn.

Table of Contents

Prologue Where Counting Really Counts 1

Chapter 1 The Book Of Numbers 23

Chapter 2 Political Arithmetic 55

Chapter 3 A Punch Photograph 95

Chapter 4 Paper People 131

Chapter 5 R World Census 175

Chapter 6 The Uncounted 217

Chapter 7 The Transparent Citizen 254

Acknowledgments 273

Notes 275

Index 337

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