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New Light on Graunt

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How did Graunt arrive at the fundamental idea of underlying quantitative regularities in vital events? This paper examines the Natural and Political Observations (1662) in the context of contemporary concepts of method to which Graunt himself referred. The first section outlines the logic of his text as a whole. The second considers the concept of population he employed, and the arithmetical devices he used to check the internal consistency of the bills of mortality. It is shown that the Observations follows step by step the method of natural history outlined by Francis Bacon; and that Graunt's anticipation of statistical techniques can be explained as an application of bookkeeping arithmetic within Bacon's methodology. The third and fourth sections of the paper then note the religious and mercantile models of society within which Graunt applied his method.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Population Studies, London School of Economics and Political Science

Publication date: March 1, 1988

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