The international statistical congress (1853-1876): Knowledge transfers and their limits

N. Randeraad*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

103 Downloads (Pure)


Between 1853 and 1876 nine international statistical congresses were held in different European cities. The aim of the congresses was to bring about uniformity in the themes and methods of national statistics. However, this goal could not be attained overnight. Much of the failure to bring about rapid change was due to the difficulties in realizing effective knowledge transfers, that is, effective communication, in an age that was not quite ready for truly international activities. It has been shown that the second half of the nineteenth century was a period of numerous experiments in internationalism, but at the same time rampant nationalism nipped many initiatives in the bud. Increasing nationalism, however, is not the only explanation for the collapse of the international statistical congress. The implicit faith in the possibility of a neutral science of statistics also created huge difficulties. Realizing statistical uniformity presupposed that the underlying facts and figures were comparable. This uniformity was far removed from the rapidly changing administrative reality in nineteenth-century Europe.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)50-65
JournalEuropean History Quarterly
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2011

Cite this