The Statistical Gaze

Helen McCarthy

  • The Butcher, the Baker, the Candlestick-Maker: The Story of Britain through Its Census, since 1801 by Roger Hutchinson
    Little, Brown, 352 pp, £20.00, February 2017, ISBN 978 1 4087 0701 2

About 15 years ago, when I was renting my first flat in London, a man from the Office for National Statistics paid me a call. A letter had arrived a week earlier informing me that my postcode had been randomly selected for the annual General Household Survey and that I could expect a visit. My interrogator was in his mid-fifties, tall, well-spoken, and wearing a long dark overcoat which he didn’t take off. He sat down with his laptop and I made him a cup of tea. I don’t remember much else about our encounter, except that his questions seemed to go on for ever and that I was anxious to please.

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