Morten Jerven Morten Jerven

A historian’s take on Poor Numbers

The coverage of the debate on African statistics continues, most recently in the Globe and Mail. I am also pleased to see that it is not only politics and media that gets stirred by the book. Recently, Poor Numbersgot coverage in Significance, which is the magazine of the Royal Statistical Society. In a recent review, Sandrine Mesplé-Somps, pointed out that I am not a statistician.

That is correct. I am an economic historian, I am therefore very pleased to read what I think is the first historian to review Poor Numbers. Alden Young,  is a Princeton PhD and a Mellon postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Africana Studies at the University of Pennsylvania. Young has paid particularly close attention to chapter 2 in Poor Numbers, and generously suggests that

Jerven’s work moves beyond being a merely cautionary tale about the accuracy of our historical data, into a new form of evidence about the nature and structure of the African state in its own right.

And elsewhere:

Building a history of how economic statistics about Africa are produced and consumed helps Jerven design a new approach to developing a periodization of the African state.

Read all about it here.


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