German Schedule, 1911 Census, reproduced by permission of the National Archives, London, and the UK Data Archive, University of Essex.

German Schedule, 1911 Census (Reproduced by permission of the National Archives, London, and the UK Data Archive, University of Essex).

Research context

The British nineteenth-century and early twentieth-century decennial census returns are an invaluable historical source of information for the social and economic analyses of the Victorian and Edwardian period. Much of the history of the period could not be written without this source.

From 1851 onwards the decennial British census returns contain vast amounts of comparable information on house and household structures, and, for each individual, on name, marital condition, relationship to head of household, age, sex, occupation, birthplace, and some medical disabilities. Later censuses include information on home working, industry of employment, and the fertility of married couples.

However, large-scale academic analysis of the manuscript sources has traditionally required time-consuming manual inputting of data from the census returns into computer systems for analysis which limits the scope, the geographical scale and the time periods of the research analysis that can be undertaken.

In recent years complete digitised datasets of the census enumerators' books from the British census have been created by commercial bodies for their own, mainly genealogical, purposes.

The I-CeM integrated dataset brings together records for more than 35 million household observations and over 200 million observations of individuals, and is one of the largest historical datasets in the world. I-CeM will completely transform the ability of the academic community to research this period of social and economic change.

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