Bottom-up Nation-building: National Censuses and Local Administration in Nineteenth-Century Spain

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It is customary to consider population censuses (and statistics in general) as exclusive to the modern State, appearing in the second half of the eighteenth century but being developed and spreading in the West during the nineteenth century. Indeed, censuses help to strengthen and legitimize such states. However, in Spain, just as in Europe and the United States, the first population censuses considered modern were the result of, on the one hand, the directives and general and provincial coordination provided by the new state statistical institutions, such as the Statistics Commission or the Institute of Geography and, on the other, municipal personnel and the previous knowledge of local conditions held by the councils and other agents, such as the clergy, intellectuals, and notables. The media were also availed of for the cause. Let us recall that the municipalities were an explicit part of the state apparatus, therefore their relevance in carrying out censuses is not an indication of failure or weakness on the part of the Spanish State regarding the process of “bottom-up nation-building”, but rather a way to imagine the nation through which collective involvement would build the nation from the locality.




Salas-Vives, P., & Pujadas-Mora, J. M. (2021). Bottom-up Nation-building: National Censuses and Local Administration in Nineteenth-Century Spain. Journal of Historical Sociology, 34(2), 287–304.

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