Counting Colonial Populations in the Portuguese Colonial Empire, 1776-1875

A research note

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In 1776 the Portuguese Crown decreed that statistical population tables were to be compiled in all its overseas possessions. Using a defined model, each governor was to send annually a population count for the area under his jurisdiction. In the Arquivo Histórico Ultramarino (AHU) in Lisbon there are over a thousand statistical population tables from Brazil to Macau. This documentary corpus opens up important horizons for demographic, social and colonial history, though it has been relatively ignored by historians and demographers. These sources enable us to study the demography and the administrative processes adopted in census-taking during the construction of the Portuguese Empire between 1776 and 1875. The following research note emphasizes the distinctive aspects of the sources, the data and its potential, and the research agenda.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)267-280
Number of pages13
JournalThe History of the Family
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2016



  • Portuguese Empire
  • Slavery
  • Colonial demography
  • Census-taking

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