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Population Investigation Committee

  • Population Investigation Committee
  • Archives and manuscripts

About this work


The collection contains the organisational records of the Population Investigation Committee including minutes, 1935-2002; annual reports, 1937-2009; correspondence and papers relating to the Committee's history and early years, 1931-1996; correspondence relating to members, 1933-2001; correspondence relating to foundations and other bodies, 1953-2000; working papers and correspondence relating to significant research projects, 1932-1996; reports, papers, and photographs of the Demographic Training Programme, 1964-c.1995; publications and reprints, 1938-1992; administrative and staff records and photographs, 1939-2002; correspondence relating to the journal Population Studies, 1977-2002; and papers relating to externally funded projects of staff of the Population Studies Department of the London School of Economics, administered through the PIC, 1978-1991.



Physical description

52 boxes


The records have been kept in their original order and have been arranged to reflect the original filing system as far as possible. Some sections of the original system no longer exist as the records were not selected for permanent preservation, and not all material located was included in the filing list. Where a significant amount of material no longer exists for an original section, the remaining material has been incorporated into an alternative section. See SA/PIC/J/1 for a copy of the original filing list.

Arranged by section as follows:

A. Minutes

B. Annual reports

C. Early years and Committee history

D. Members

E. Foundations and other bodies

F. Research and projects

G. Demographic Training Programme

H. Publications

J. Administration

K. Staff

L. Population Studies

M. Department Research

Acquisition note

The archives were given to the Wellcome Library by the Population Investigation Committee in Sep 2010.

Biographical note

On 16 February 1935 Sir Alexander Carr-Saunders, Charles Booth Chair of Social Science at the University of Liverpool, and Chairman of the Positive Eugenics Committee, delivered the Galton Lecture of the Eugenics Society entitled 'Eugenics in the Light of Population Trends'. Carr-Saunders drew attention to the falling birth rate and concerns over the fertility of married women and a decline in the size of the family. As a result, the Council of the Eugenics Society met on several occasions between June 1935 and June 1936 to discuss the formation of a research body - the Population Investigation Committee (PIC).

The first meeting of the PIC was held 15 June 1936. Sir Alexander Carr-Saunders was elected Chairman, C.P. Blacker the General Secretary, and David Glass the Research Secretary. It was also decided that the PIC should be independent from the Eugenics Society and those organisations who had appointed representatives to the committee. In 1936 The Future of Our Population? was published. It was one of the first publications of the new committee and discussed the declining birth rate and concerns facing the population. The original purpose of the PIC was 'to examine the trends of the population in Great Britain and the Colonies and to investigate the causes of these trends, with special reference to the fall of the birth-rate.' Its remit was research, not the formation of policy. As such the PIC had a prominent role in several national surveys to investigate the medical, economic and social factors affecting changes in the population.

Research activities involving the PIC include a fertility inquiry in 1939; an examination of vital statistics during the 1940s; the Royal Commission on Population and the Family Census of 1946; studies of foreign population policies; the Maternity Inquiry of 1946 in collaboration with the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, which developed into the National Survey of Health and Development; the Scottish Mental Survey of 1947 in cooperation with the Scottish Council for Research in Education to examine the trend of intelligence in children aged 11 years old; a national survey concerned with marriage and divorce in 1959-1960; a study of the British Peerage from 1603-1938; and a national survey of fertility and birth control practice in 1967-1968.

Other activities of the PIC involve the dissemination and encouragement of research in the field of demography. In 1947 the PIC began to publish Population Studies as the first English language journal exclusively concerned with demography. It has been continually produced by the PIC since it was established. Whilst the PIC was actively involved in research, the Journal often reported the results. In 1963, David Glass, then Chairman of the PIC, applied for funding for a postgraduate demographic training programme in collaboration with the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) with special reference to students from developing countries. The grant was approved and the first students began their studies in September 1965. LSE took over complete responsibility of the programme in 1980. In 1981 the Small Grants Scheme was established by the PIC to encourage research work in population studies. Initially grants of up to £400 were awarded for approved projects. Following this, in 1995, a Scholarship Fund was formed. Tutors of approved one-year MSc. courses in subjects with a high demographic content were invited to apply on behalf of suitable candidates. In 2000 the Small Grants Scheme was withdrawn and the remaining funds transferred to the Scholarship Fund.

Following the death of David Glass in 1978, the research element of the PIC diminished. Although members of the PIC remained involved with research this was not directly undertaken on behalf of, or in connection with, the Committee. In 2002 it was decided that Population Studies would be published externally. As a result staff numbers were reduced to one full-time paid member of staff; the General Secretary. In 2003 a further decision was made to reduce the size of the Committee to ten members, all of whom would be trustees. In addition the President of the British Society for Population Studies was invited to be a member as a non-Trustee. Today (2011) the activities of the PIC revolve around the Journal, which provides the bulk of the Committee's income. Any surplus income subsidises the Scholarship Fund which continues to provide scholarships for UK masters students studying demography.

Chairmen of the PIC:

Sir Alexander Carr-Saunders 1936-1958

David Glass 1958-1978

Prof. Ralph Dahrendorf 1978-1984

Prof. Sir Tony Wrigley 1984-1991

Prof. John Hobcraft 1991-2003

Prof. John Cleland 2003-

Related material

In the Wellcome Library:

  • Papers of the Eugenics Society (SA/EUG)
  • Papers of Carlos Paton Blacker (PP/CPB)
  • Papers of the Family Planning Association (SA/FPA)
  • Papers of the National Birthday Trust (SA/NBT)
  • Papers of the Medical Women's Federation (SA/MWF)
  • Glasgow University Special Collections:

  • Papers relating to the Scottish Mental Surveys, ref. UGC 171/7
  • London School of Economics Archives:

  • Papers of Sir Alexander Carr-Saunders, c.1930-c.1940
  • Small collection of papers of David Glass, 1912-1938, ref. COLL MISC 0479
  • Royal Commission on Population papers, 1945-1946, ref. COLL MISC 1078
  • Minutes, reports and correspondence relating to the PIC, 1954-1958, in the papers of Sir Brandon Rhys Wiliams
  • Minutes, reports, memorandum, and correspondence relating to the PIC, 1943-1960, in the papers of Richard Morris Titmuss
  • Special Collections, Milton S. Eisenhower Library, The John Hopkins University, Baltimore, USA:

  • Hollingsworth Geneaogical Data on the British Peerage, ref. manuscripts Ms.359
  • Central Town Library, Berlin:

  • Correspondence of Robert Rene Kuczynski relating to the PIC, 1936-1947, in the papers of Jürgen Kuczynski (R.R. Kuczynski's role as one of the original members of the PIC is discussed in the Memoir published on his death in Population Studies, Vol.1, No.4, March 1948)
  • Copyright note

    Any copyrights held by the Population Investigation Committee have been retained by the Committee.

    Terms of use

    This collection has been catalogued and is available to library members. Some items have access restrictions which are explained in the item-level catalogue records.

    Appraisal note

    The Project Archivist surveyed the records of the Population Investigation Committee in situ. The disposal of records was agreed with the General Secretary of the Committee.

    Records not selected for permanent preservation fall in to the following categories: routine repetitive correspondence, financial records other than annual accounts, routine personnel administration records, and brochures and information booklets of external organisations.

    Ownership note

    The archives were kept by the Population Investigation Committee in a basement at the London School of Economics, Houghton Street, London, WC2A 2AE prior to their transfer to the Wellcome Library in 2010.

    The Committee retain a small collection of records, mainly duplicate annual reports and publications, and administrative papers relating to the journal Population Studies. The Committee also retain the archives of the British Society for Population Studies.


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