News 6 Sep 2019

Population and homicide figures from the 18th century to the present day


Statistics Finland's history reaches back to 1865, but there are clearly older data in its databases concerning life in Finland, for example on the development of the population, marriages contracted, homicides and the economy. Data sources have been compiled on the Long time series page of the Guide on historical statistical data (in Finnish).

Statistics compilation on Finnish affairs and society began already during Swedish rule. The Swedish population statistics for 1749 are considered the first official statistics concerning Finland. This was the first time the population was calculated based on a decision by the parliament. Clergymen collected the data by surveying parish registers. As far as Finland is concerned, the result was 410,400, as one can see in the database of the statistics on population changes and population.

Census of the population has affected the emergence of all statistics. Already hundreds of years ago, calculation was used to asses, for example, the strength of the army, in addition to the size of the population.

The first lists on the population of Sweden-Finland were compiled in the early 16th century for tax collection purposes by order from king Gustav Vasa. Another basis for subsequent actual statistics was the parish registers. The bishop of Turku, Isak Rothovius ordered in 1628 that every vicar should keep “a parish register on his desk based on which he could act”. Persons married, baptised and buried were recorded in the register. Starting from 1686, this was also required by the Church Code.

Since the 1750s, statistical data have been collected, e.g. on births, deaths, life expectancy and marriages. These can be used, for example, to see that most marriages relative to the population were contracted right after the war in 1946. Since 1754, statistics on homicides have been compiled, which show that their relative number was highest in 1918, during the civil war.

The National Board of Customs started compiling foreign trade statistics in 1813. Economic statistics expanded in the 1860s: the time series of National Accounts show, for example, that GDP per capita has grown to some 25-fold since then.


Read more:
Long time series page of the Guide on historical statistical data (in Finnish) 
eCourse in Statistics on Statistics Finland's website, history of Finland's population statistics (in Finnish)

Source of image on front page: Svenska litteratursällskapet i Finland, Alma Skog’s archive