Census in context: Documenting and understanding the making of early-twentieth-century Canadian censuses

Ruppert, Evelyn S.; Bellavance, Claude and Normand, France (2007). Census in context: Documenting and understanding the making of early-twentieth-century Canadian censuses. Historical Methods, 40(2) pp. 92–104.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.3200/HMTS.40.2.92-104

Abstract

One of the central goals of the Canadian Century Research Infrastructure (CCRI) is to construct a series of contextual databases related to the making and taking of the Canadian decennial censuses during first half of the twentieth century. This 'data on the data' will provide researchers with the evidence necessary to undertake informed and critical analysis of the making, taking and reception of the census within its historical context. The contextual databases are the focus of this paper, which outlines conceptual and practical considerations involved in the collection and construction of two contextual data sources: newspapers and political debates. Drawing on two sets of examples related to the political stakes of the 1911 census we illustrate more concretely how this 'data on the data' can be used. While the microdata derived from census manuscripts will enable research into the hidden history of the individual lives of Canadians, the contextual data will make possible inquiries about the making and interpreting of that data and the challenges of the great enumerations of contemporary history.

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