US surpassed UK.
October 20, 2005 3:04 PM   Subscribe

When did the population of the US (or its preceding colonies) surpass that of the UK? Any links to this sort of historo-demographic information for the layman (ie, in easy to digest form)?
posted by dash_slot- to Grab Bag (7 answers total)
Was tooling around for something and found this interesting Census information databank by states, ethnicity, etc...etc.

This will probably help with the second part of your question. Play around with it, it becomes relatively easy to figure out.
posted by Atreides at 3:34 PM on October 20, 2005

US census figures
UK census figures

If I did the math right, the lines cross at 1856. It's very likely I screwed it up though.
posted by smackfu at 3:45 PM on October 20, 2005

It's hard to believe that the land that ended up the US ever had fewer people than the UK did. Are the US numbers low because the native people got wiped out by disease? Or did they just never count them?
posted by small_ruminant at 4:15 PM on October 20, 2005

Between 90% and 99% of native americans had been wiped out by the 1800s. Plus, England's been much denser than the america for centuries. The mid-19th-century estimate sounds about right, even counting native americans.

The population of what is now the U.S. was greater than that of what is now britain for centuries, but the U.S.'s actual, political borders were expanding as the native american population was diminishing (though I'd guess most of the deaths had happened before 1776), so it evens out.
posted by Tlogmer at 4:23 PM on October 20, 2005

The US Census did not enumerate untaxable Indians, i.e. those on reservations or roaming the Plains. The first to count Indians explicitly (apart from BIA record-keeping) was the 1890 census, which found 58,000 "civilized Indians" among the five semi-assimilated tribes from the Southeast who had been removed to Oklahoma or thereabouts. A 1928 scholarly estimate found approximately 1.1 million Indians throughout the US. [*]

The number here before Columbus is an open question, but scholarship today generally puts it in the 10 to 70 million range. See Population history of American indigenous peoples at Wikipedia for some discussion. It is possible that the population of North and South America at one point surpassed the population of Europe.

Native populations were susceptible to disease because they had never been exposed to them, whereas almost every European had some immunity to the common illnesses of the day. The earliest accounts of settlers at places like Jamestown, Plymouth and Roanoke all include eerily deserted nearby Indian villages that had been wiped out by disease. The isolated conditions of the Americas had not bred diseases as effectively as the Europe-Asia-Africa megacontinent, so they were little threat to Europeans (with the possible exception of syphilis).
posted by dhartung at 9:05 PM on October 20, 2005

At the risk of moving further off-topic, Jared Diamond discuses the disease issue in 'Guns, Germs and Steel'. I don't think he discusses UK population numbers.
posted by GuyZero at 6:19 AM on October 21, 2005

Because I like making charts.
posted by smackfu at 6:54 AM on October 21, 2005

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