TitleWhat Skeletons Are In Your Closet?
Publication TypeWeb Article
Year of Publication2014
AuthorsOsborne, Nicola, and Aiton Helen
Series TitleSignificance
Access Year2016
Last Update Date05/08/2014
PublisherRoyal Statistical Society
Type of MediumElectronic web page

Sir John Sinclair’s work on the Statistical Accounts of Scotland - both the 1791-99 Accounts and the Second Accounts (1834-45) - was hugely significant, gaining particular praise for its unusual scale. Sir John went on to become one of the original members of the Statistical Society of London (now better known as the Royal Statistical Society) when it was founded in 1834, but the legacy of the Accounts has continued far beyond his lifetime.

In capturing life in Scotland both prior to and during the Industrial Revolution, Sir John had recorded vast social and economic changes that formed modern Scotland. That work enabled many of the outsiders of their day to be counted, visible, and (to some extent) have their own ‘quantum of happiness’ considered, albeit through the lens of their parish minister. For instance the lives of deaf people, often hidden or undescribed in other historical texts, are described across both Accounts - see Ella Smith’s excellent article in Deaf History Journal for more on this.

In an era of increased use of statistical data in policy and commercial decision making, we want to consider who are we not capturing in our own modern data and statistics. How might we better represent our own outsiders - and who are they? Could we record our own moral standards, our taboos, and what might a quantum of happiness look like? So that our own current policy makers might ‘ameliorate’ our condition?