Census 2021: using the census in the history classroom

By Mel Jones, published 15th March 2021

Using the census in the history classroom

As we approach the next census in March 2021, we are reminded of what a rich historical source the census is. For historians, using the census can shine a light on particular people and places – a snapshot in time. Big stories can be told through a sharp local lens using data gleaned from census material. Change and continuity over time can also be traced.

David Olusoga has been encouraging people to complete the 2021 census and he emphasises the importance of it as a historical source. Indeed, his popular series A House Through Time benefitted from data gleaned from the census and provides a perfect example of tracing change over time using census data – in this case with reference to one particular house. Of course, this was not the only source of information used by Olusoga, but census data was able to provide an important starting point for further research. David and Yinka Olusoga have also developed a history-led lesson in which pupils explore birthplace, ethnic diversity and Britain’s changing relationship with empire...

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