The Population Explosion in 19th century Britain

Today, you will look at a spreadsheet of census data from England and Wales between 1801-1911. By the end of the lesson, you will be able to:

*   Identify when a spreadsheet is useful in organizing data.

*   Use the Microsoft Excel program.

*   Manipulate a spreadsheet of census returns.

*   Identify demographic changes in 19th century England and Wales

*   Hypothesize about social and political changes resulting from demographic changes.

  1. Open the spreadsheet entitled Population Census Data for England and Wales 1801-1911. Take a couple of minutes to study how the data is broken down, e.g. how frequently censuses were taken, how town sizes were categorized during this period, etc. Population figures are recorded in the 1000’s. For example, the total population in England and Wales in 1801 was 8,893,000. How did the people compiling the census define urban?


  1. Using spreadsheet functions, calculate the percentage the population changed from one census to the next in each category of town sizes and in the total population category. If you need help with the mechanics of this, read the following. If not, skip to step 3.

*   First, you will need to insert columns in your spreadsheet. For example, click your mouse on cell C2 and then pull down the INSERT menu and select COLUMN. An additional column will appear in C2.

*   Give this column a title, e.g. % change.

*   Come up with a formula which will calculate the percent change in total population from 1801 to 1811 to be inserted in Cell C4. Type in your formula preceded by an = in Cell C4 and then hit enter. Check to see if your formula is correct by calculating the percentage by hand and comparing it with your formula’s answer. Modify if needed.

*   Instead of calculating each percentage individually, the spreadsheet has a FILL function which will perform the same operation using the numbers relevant to the next row or column. For example, you need to calculate the percent change for each year in the total population column. After coming up with the formula in C4, highlight the C column from C4 to C14. Then, from the EDIT pull down menu, select FILL and COLUMN or DOWN. Each percentage should be filled in from 1801-1911.

*   Repeat this formula fill procedure for each town grouping.



  1. Experiment with the CHART function in Excel. This creates a graphical representation of the data highlighted. Which is more useful to chart – raw data or pecentages? Why?


When you decide, chart using the preferable type of data.

How to make a simple Excel chart (use the data on sheet 1):

*   Highlight the column with the data you wish to chart. If you want to chart multiple columns, highlight one column and then hit the control key and highlight any additional columns you wish to chart.

*   Select the CHART option from the insert menu.

*   Select the type of chart (LINE or COLUMN is suggested) you want and then hit NEXT.

*   The next screen will say either SERIES or DATA RANGE at the top. Click on the tab which says SERIES and then click your cursor in the CATEGORY X AXIS LABELS box at the bottom. Go back to your spreadsheet and highlight cells A3 to A14 (the years of the censuses).

*   In your previewed chart, check to see if the various labels are accurate. For example, in the small box to the right, the colors are coded according to what the graphed data is. If yours are not labelled correctly, reNAME them under the SERIES tab.

*   When you’re happy with the way your previewed chart looks, click on FINISH to see the chart. If you cannot see all of the years displayed, stretch out the chart by grabbing the "handles" of the chart and pulling them over. You may also need to move the legend up.


  1. Use your data and charts to draw some conclusions about the population explosion in England and Wales.

*   Was the population growth constant from 1801-1911?

*   According to the data, during what years was the population growth most marked?

*   Which types of urban areas were most affected by the population's growth?

*   Is is accurate to say a population explosion occurred in England and Wales from 1801-1911? Why or why not?


  1. Hypothesize about broader conclusions from this data:

*   Why might a "population explosion" have occurred during this era?

*   What changes could have happened such that more babies survived and adults lived longer?

*   What are some consequences of urbanization?

6.      Can you think of some criticisms of this collection of census data as a primary source?

*   What additional information would you need to feel confident about your conclusions on the residential demographics of 19th century Britain?

*   What information could be hidden in this data?

*   What are some difficulties in using data from this time period (hint: the first British census was taken in 1801)?