Official Statistics and State Building in Nineteenth-Century Brazil: A Prehistory of the 1872 Census

Anne Hanley, Northern Illinois University

This paper studies the institutional history, politics, and policies behind the conception, design, and logistics of Brazil's first national census, taken in 1872. This census had the potential to integrate the nation in a basic, functional manner. Before 1872, Brazilian planners lacked much beyond a rudimentary understanding of the demographics of the internal market, to their great frustration. The Ministério do Império, or Interior Ministry, lamented from its beginning the absence of good data, particularly on population. Asserting that the nation could easily support “more than eighty million inhabitants; without lowering a subdivision of their land”, yet guessing that its population “by a rough estimate only amounts to six million,” the minister pushed for measures to increase the population of the country either by attracting immigrant colonists or promoting internal growth through preferential benefits for married men. The provinces controlled demographic data collection and sent only sporadic or incomplete data to the capital. By 1836, the ministry routinely compiled and reported demographic data for the municipality of Rio de Janeiro in its annual reports, and urged, cajoled and tried to shame the provinces into doing the same so that the government could understand where to direct its efforts at attracting or promoting new population growth. This paper studies the evolution of this struggle for official statistics from these early calls for demographic data, through the 1851 census cancelled due to violent protests against the intrusion of the state, to an 1870 test census of Rio de Janeiro used to refine methods and calculations in advance of the 1872 national census. Historical scholarship casts the failure to implement a census before 1872 as an absence of state administrative capacity. I argue that by studying the pursuit of official statistics we witness the making of Brazilian state governing capacity.

No extended abstract or paper available

 Presented in Session 215. Economics