Historians are queuing up to criticise “crazy and short-sighted” government plans to abolish the National Census after 2011, citing both their own research and wider concerns about the loss of cultural heritage.

Matt Houlbrook, tutorial Fellow in modern British history at Magdalen College, Oxford, is using census records to research the confidence trickster, journalist and royal biographer Netley Lucas.

The proposal risked wiping ordinary people from history, Dr Houlbrook said. “The idea of scrapping the National Census is crazy and short-sighted. It’s the demotic – almost democratic – qualities of the census that make it such an important source of information about even the most obscure and long-forgotten individuals.

“Its records provide us with the traces of everyman and everywoman in the past, rather than just the rich and the powerful. Scrapping the National Census risks silencing such voices for generations of family and academic historians to come.”

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