1 Introduction

Here we have a road sign that greets us as we travel into Scotland from England

Image 1: Here we have a road sign that greets us as we travel into Scotland from England

Here we have a sign at the border of West Yorkshire

Image 2: Here we have a sign at the border of West Yorkshire

Here we have a sign marking the boundary of an old London borough

Image 3: Here we have a sign marking the boundary of an old London borough

The aim of this specific module is provide you with an understanding of the geographies that are in use within the ESRC census programme. We will then describe how these geographies are represented as digital boundary datasets and geographical lookup tables.

Our concern here are geographic regions that are in use within a particular period of time. These may range from the large regions that represent the national outline of a country down to the much smaller regions that are used for the collection and visualisation of area based statistical information.

Travelling around the UK, you will often find yourself coming across signs marking the boundary of 2 or more specific geographic regions. Take a look at the following images.

Each of these geographical regions – Scotland; West Yorkshire and a former London borough has at one time been defined with a geographical boundary. The circumstances which led to the definition of this boundary and hence the geographical region enclosed by it varies.

In historic times wars may have been fought to establish the boundaries of territory (and the access to resources that this provided). Boundaries may have been defined for administrative purposes – parishes are a means of ecclesiastical administration. Originally at the centre of every parish would have been a church. To this day boundaries continue to be defined for administrative purposes such as the collection of local taxes and the delivery of local government services. Boundaries may also define geographical regions that exist only for the purpose of the collection and dissemination of area based statistics such as the decennial census.

The concern of the ESRC census programme is access to census data. Census data is information about people and people live in specific locations. Geography is therefore at the heart of the census. Let’s explore where geography appears in the census programme.