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"ECW: County populations?" Topic


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SteelViscount13 Mar 2017 11:04 a.m. PST

Has anyone got a rough idea of what the population of each county was in 1642?

MajorB13 Mar 2017 12:28 p.m. PST

I doubt it.

Timbo W13 Mar 2017 1:14 p.m. PST

There's this for 1600 and 1700 link

might be worth a look through their site to see if the figures are available?

Capt Mackerel13 Mar 2017 1:44 p.m. PST

Too quick on the draw again, Major.

MajorB13 Mar 2017 2:15 p.m. PST

Too quick on the draw again, Major.

I said "I doubt it" meaning that I was sceptical that such data existed.

"shows estimates of population density at county level for 1600" (my emphasis)

Timbo W's link is a partial answer but to arrive at county populations you would need more accurate figures than just the range shown in the link (most counties are shown as having a population density of 50 100 per sq. mile). Then you would need to know the size of each county in square miles, also bearing in mind the fact that county boundaries in 1600 were in some cases a lot different to the modern county boundaries.

Capt Mackerel14 Mar 2017 2:23 a.m. PST

… z z z z ……

Supercilius Maximus14 Mar 2017 2:57 a.m. PST

Or that some counties no longer exist. You also have to be careful because some figures give populations for England alone (estimates of total pop. were 4.1M in 1600 and 5.3M in 1650), others for England AND Wales.

I think the fact that Timbo's link is to research published in 2011, and that nothing more detailed has appeared since then, suggests that either the data is simply not available, or it is extremely difficult to locate/process.

As a rough rule-of-thumb, men of militia age were generally considered to account for 10% of a typical population, so finding militia estimates and adding a zero on the end might give a close(ish) representation at county level. According to an old (1970s) article by George Gush, the English militia theoretically numbered 1M by mid-Tudor times, but this seems a bit of an over-estimate and would surely have to include Wales in order to even get close to that figure.

Cerdic Supporting Member of TMP14 Mar 2017 4:40 a.m. PST

I doubt the figure of one million men available for the militia, even theoretically! All the estimates I have seen of the population of England in the 16th and 17th Centuries have been around the 4 to 6 million mark. Even at the top estimates that would mean 1 in 3 of ALL males eligible for militia service, including children and old men!

Another thing to remember about population statistics in any pre-industrial society is the much greater proportion of children to adults. So for any given population figure, a much smaller percentage would be men of military age than might be expected.

DHautpol14 Mar 2017 6:40 a.m. PST

The map shows just how concentrated the population around London was even back then.

Whilst it shows Middlesex with a density of 500-1000 persons per square mile, the majority of those would have been in the expanded London (Middlesex began at boundaries of the old medieval Corporation) and the outer areas were probably similar to the counties just north on Middlesex.

Supercilius Maximus14 Mar 2017 9:39 a.m. PST

Even at the top estimates that would mean 1 in 3 of ALL males eligible for militia service, including children and old men!

The age range for militia service was 16-60 at that time, so given child mortality rates and shorter life-spans (both of which discriminate heavily against males) it seems probable that a figure of 1M militia would require almost half of all males to be under arms, given a total population in Tudor times ranging from 2.1M when Henry VII came to the throne, to 4.1M at the end of Elizabeth's reign!

Cerdic Supporting Member of TMP14 Mar 2017 11:20 a.m. PST

Fair point!

So Tudor England had access to a shed-load of militia then….

Timbo W14 Mar 2017 1:46 p.m. PST

Trained Bands pre ECW were around 120,000 iirc, but of course these were the select rather than the whole mass of military age men, theoretically liable for the posse comitatus.

Supercilius Maximus15 Mar 2017 1:39 a.m. PST

Cerdic – just to be clear, I was suggesting that the "million militia" idea it was even more unlikely than you were saying.

I should have added that it was able-bodied 16-60 year-olds, which again, would apply more to men, so even further reducing the pool of men actually available.

Cerdic Supporting Member of TMP15 Mar 2017 7:04 a.m. PST

Yes, it is obviously theoretical figures we are talking about!

It is not really my period, so I don't know much about actual use of the militia. But it would seem that the number of men serving in the militia was way below the potential maximum. So were militiamen the pick of the bunch, or were people able to buy substitutes or otherwise avoid service leaving just the dregs to serve?

Either way, even 120,000 was a fair old number…

SteelViscount16 Mar 2017 3:43 p.m. PST

Hm I'll need to think on this one for a bit. I suppose I'll have to make educated guesses for the most part.

Supercilius Maximus17 Mar 2017 2:41 a.m. PST

SV Good luck with that!!! The trouble is, with a variable of 50-100 people per square mile over the vast majority of England, even if you find the actual land area of any county in 1642, you still have a massive differential to contend with.

To take Surrey as an example leaving aside how much it has shrunk due to the expansion of London (Lambeth, Southwark, Wandsworth, and parts of Lewisham and Bromley in 1889; then Richmond, Kingston, Croydon and Wimbledon as recently as 1965, at which time Surrey gained part of Middlesex which had been abolished), it has gone from being a rural county with few people, to having a population of 1.2M. Even using the modern-day area (642 sq miles), you would have anything from 32,000 to 65,000 people at 1642 population levels.

I suspect that your best bet would be to contact county museums and ask the curator for a "best guess" as to land area and population for the 1640s, and compare with a rough calculation by population density from the Cambridge map. There is also an "Association of British Counties" that might be helpful, but given it was founded by the astrologer Russell Grant, perhaps not……

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