chapter  35
CRABTREE AND POLITICAL ARITHMETICK
WithNegley Harte
Pages 10

Among economic and social historians in recent years, Gregory King has come to occupy the leading place he deserves among the precursors of numeracy in the study of society. We now know that in the 1690s he was the first contemporary ever to attempt to calculate more or less reliable population figures for England and Wales, over a century before the first formal census. His demographic data for family size and household structure lay the basis for our knowledge of what the French demographic historian Louis Henry has otherwise called ‘the pre-statistical past’. Gregory King’s ‘Scheme of the Income and Expense of the Several Families of England calculated for the Year 1688’ lays the basis of national income accounting perceived historically, and all modern attempts to explain the origins of economic growth start with Kings figures. His contemporary William Petty coined the term ‘political arithmetick’ in the 1670s to refer to the numerical study of social facts, and it was John Graunt’s Natural and Political Observations on the London Bills of Mortality which in 1662 pioneered a fundamentally new and original approach to what can legitimately from the late seventeenth century on begin to be called the social sciences.