3. What are some limitations of census data?
All this information was hand gathered and then hand collated and hand added and subtracted and divided, and so one of the challenges of working with this kind of data is that you have to check their math.
Those who were listed as without occupation in the Austrian census are those who had no identifiable occupation, meaning that they were not working for pay. But it could include somebody who was 90 years old or a mother whos just had a child. Often people would identify their occupation even if they werent currently working. So these are people really occupation-less and theres no way to know what they were doing with their time. Thats where then we run into the limits of what the data can tell us. We get down to a certain point and we cant penetrate any deeper.
We dont dispute the quality of the data, but its still only data. So, for instance, if we look at the Prague suburb of Smíchov, 44,269 people are listed as industrial workers. This is a relatively high share of the population because Smíchov was an industrial suburb of the city. This is where the particularly stinky enterprises were, like coal and steel. There was a fair amount of leather tanning that went on there as well. Very unpleasant odors coming from these various factories which is why it was a suburb instead of in the city. So we know that there were lots of industrial workers in Smíchov. We also know that the population of Smíchov increased between 1880 and 1910 by something like 800%, so it was one of those industrial districts that grew phenomenally as industrialization took off in the monarchy.
Then what you have to do is go back to other kinds of sources in the archives, things like reports by the chambers of commerce about industrial investment. Banking information is especially useful. You can look at banking records to see what kinds of enterprises they were supporting and how profitable some of these enterprises were.
Then you can also find journalistic accounts of life in Smíchov. There were several local newspapers that were produced there. The Prague newspapers covered this district very extensively, whether it was political life, cultural life. And then you look at the activities of the political parties because the political parties in the Hapsburg Monarchy were much more pervasive in everyday life than political parties are today. Political parties provided not only a political network, but they provided a social and professional network for their members. You would obtain your health insurance through your political party, rather than through an insurance agency. You would take adult education courses. You would attend cultural lectures. You would belong to a hiking club that was sponsored by the party.
I end up using all of these other kinds of manuscript sources to combine with the data. But I start with the data because the data often pose really interesting questions about whats going on in a particular location.