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Histpop — The Online Historical Population Reports Project

A collection of British Historical Population Reports

What’s the background to the project?

How the website has been developed

A collection of British Historical Population Reports

The OHPR website — histpop — is an online resource of almost 200,000 pages of all the published population reports created by the Registrars-General of and its predecessors for England and Wales and for Scotland for the period 1801–1920, including all Census Reports for the period 1801–1937, along with ancillary archival material from The National Archives, and critical essays contextualising much of the material. The whole resource will illustrate the changing demographic structure of Britain and Ireland over this period, and for the first time researchers will be able to search and browse the entire collection of published pre-World War Two census and registration material for the British Isles.

Note to genealogists and others tracing individuals: This site only contains a very small number of reproductions of original census enumerators' books for illustrative purposes. If you are trying to trace individuals in historical British censuses you should use the links found on our links page.

What’s the background to the project?

histpop is the tangible output of the Online Historical Population Reports (OHPR) project which is run as a project within AHDS History at the UK Data Archive at the University of Essex.

Funding for this project comes from the JISC Digitisation Programme. Including OHPR, there are six projects within this programme, the others being Eighteenth-century Parliamentary Papers, Archival Sound Recordings, British Newspapers 1800–1900, Medical Journals Backfiles and Newsfilm Online. Further details of these projects can be found at

To enable access to this collection of material the histpop website offers browse and search facilities both of which can be refined to access the data by date and/or by geography.

Browse and search results are presented in two stages. First, a table of contents of the original volume is displayed along with section titles. Users can drill through these sections to select the page they wish to view. The page is displayed as an image together with information about its location in the local hierarchy. Using this information, users can navigate to adjacent pages or to other levels in the volume or section hierarchy.

Great emphasis has been put on contextualising the images in relation to their location in the source volumes hierarchy and in relation to other source material. For example over 150 historical essays, which have been written by Dr Edward Higgs and Dr Matthew Woollard, will accompany the site and can be accessed through search and browse as well as through an “Associated Content” feature when viewing an image. If an essay or essays are relevant to the page being viewed, then it will be able to be accessed as “Associated Content”. This principle applies to all resources where an association between essays (or primary legislation) and printed volumes exists.

How the website has been developed

Usability and functionality have been the keywords which have driven the website development programme. An alpha version of the website “Demo A” was launched in June 2005 the purpose of which was to test user reaction and usability.

A usability assessment of this version of the website was carried out by Mike Pringle of AHDS Visual Arts. The conclusions of this study have been fed into a functional specification for this beta version of the website.

The design of the “histpop” website uses open source components wherever possible and no client-side Java scripting. Users’ web browsers must be able to render PNG images otherwise there are few restrictions on the type of browser used, providing they are XHTML 1.x compliant.