From the 15th to 17th Centuries, bishops were made responsible for counting the number of families in their dioceses, as Brits believed that any formal census was sacrilegious. Quebec held its first official census in 1666, Iceland in 1703 and Sweden in 1749.

Finally, in 1798 demographer Thomas Malthus suggested that population growth in the UK would soon outstrip supplies of food and other resources. Unable to support itself, Britain would be hit by famine, disease and other disasters. Concerned at this alarmist view of the future, people began to see the need for a census. The first official census of England & Wales took place in March 1801.

The picture shows an extract from the census of 1851, which shows Queen Victoria and her family living at Buckingham Palace.