census Archive

Measuring the Unknown in Jesse Ball’s Census

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The nature of the census changes continually—it is at points a mechanism of state surveillance, a quest for self-knowledge, an act of community, a measure of goodness, an exchange, a gift.
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Notes on the State of Virginia: Journey to the Center of an American Document, Queries VII, VIII, and IX

In these three queries, Jefferson attempts to distill the complex meteorological, demographic, and military features of Virginia into a series of data points. His prose—supplemented by graphical tables tracking everything from rainfall to carriage wheels—draws a fine grid over the natural and human activities of the Commonwealth.
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