Edward Everett Root Publishers Co. Ltd.


The Statistical Movement in Early Victorian Britain
The Foundations of Empirical Social Research.

Michael J. Cullen

"fascinating...a considerable degree of coherence and breadth of interest..." - Professor Phyllis Deane, Journal of Political Economy.

ISBN 9781911454007  Paperback   £29.99   Order
ISBN 9781911454014  Hardback    £70.00   Order

​234 x 156mm.  xvi + 205pp.

Classics in Social and Economic History series, no. 15.

About this book

This work is the established deep analysis of the ideas, institutions and men who coalesced into what became the characteristically Victorian statistical movement to probe, measure, quantify and reform society. This was intended “to prevent misfortune and vice, sickness and improvidence.”

The early Victorians, in an age of serious social tension and the threat of tumultuous unrest, found it imperative to know the reasons behind multiplying challenges to their society. Faced with ‘the condition of England’ question they sought its causes.

At the root of that search was the cluster of values known as the ideology of ‘improvement’.

The book is set in two chief contexts: the statistical movement is seen as an outgrowth of a long period of development in the use of quantification to study social problems (which is here surveyed). And it is seen as a response to the social and political needs of the time when information and analysis was crucial to government.

This work forges a valuable intellectual link in the chain that unites the earliest forms of social enquiry with Henry Mayhew, Charles booth, Seebohm Rowntree and the modern statistical sciences of society.

Dr. Cullen – trained in both history and mathematics - shows that social statisticians tended to concentrate on public health and education questions as the explanations of tension. They sought remedies in changing the environment of the poor in order to change their characters.

The book is based on work undertaken at the University of Edinburgh, which won the Dr. Cullen the Jeremiah Dalziel prize in History for outstanding work.

About the author

Sir Michael John Cullen KNZM was Senior Lecturer in History at the University of Otago in New Zealand. He served as Deputy Prime Minister of New Zealand, and he was also Minister of Finance, Minister of Tertiary Education, and Attorney-General. He was the deputy leader of the Labour Party from 1996 until November 2008, when he resigned following a defeat in the general election. He resigned from Parliament in April 2009, to become the Deputy Chairman of New Zealand Post from November 2009 and Chairman from November 2010.


"fascinating...a considerable degree of coherence and breadth of interest..." - Professor Phyllis Deane, Journal of Political Economy.

“Dr. Cullen provides detailed information on a topic which until now has been inadequately investigated, and he presents it with extensive documentation and a bibliography of primary sources. His excellent book will be of central interest to many historians of medicine, mostly to those dealing with public health and medicine in the first half of the 19th century”.  Medical History.