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The 1703 Census of Iceland

Registration year: 2013
Submission year: 
2012
Collection ID: 
2012-31

The 1703 census is the first comprehensive census taken in Iceland and the oldest extant nominal census in the world that includes every member of a country’s population, with name, age and social status.These unique resources are preserved in its entirety in the National Archives of Iceland. The census is a milestone in the history of population studies.

The Icelandic census was carried out in 1702-1703 by Árni Magnússon and Páll Vídalín, who were specially commissioned by the Danish king to assess the conditions in Iceland. Among the tasks to be carried out was to conduct a census of all the inhabitants of Iceland.The census was submitted to Árni Magnússon and Páll Vídalín at a meeting of Althingi (the parliament) in July 1703.

According to the census the total population of Iceland amounted to 50,366 inhabitants in 1703.The census most comparable to the Icelandic census is the 1666 census of New France in Canada. This includes only the French population of the colony, who numbered just 3,200 individuals.The first complete census in the Danish Kingdom was conducted in 1769, but it only counted the inhabitants. In most European countries general censuses were first carried out in the early 19th century.

Collection locations

iceland_1703_census_skuli_adalvikursveit1.jpg

Example of a full district report from the district Aðalvíkursveit. Counts the general public, pauper and vagrants, page 1.
© The National Archives of Iceland

iceland_1703_census_stadarhreppur3.jpg

Example of a full district report (Staðarhreppur) which has been rewritten, the registrars names and information on vagrants added afterwards. Two different handwritings, page 3.
© The National Archives of Iceland

iceland_1703_census_borgarhreppur6.jpg

Example of a full district report from the district Borgarhreppur. Counts the general public, pauper and vagrants, page 6.
© The National Archives of Iceland

Collection details

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The 1703 Census of Iceland

Description

The 1703 census is the first comprehensive census taken in Iceland and the oldest extant nominal census in the world that includes every member of a country's population, with name, age and social status. The census is a milestone in the history of population studies. It was carried out in 1702-1703 by Árni Magnússon and Páll Vídalín, who were specially commissioned by the Danish king to assess the conditions in Iceland. Among the tasks to be carried out was to conduct a census of all the inhabitants of Iceland. The census was submitted to Árni Magnússon and Páll Vídalín at a meeting of Althingi (the parliament) in July 1703. According to the census the total population of Iceland amounted to 50,366 inhabitants in 1703.

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