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Federico-Tena World Population Historical Database

CAMBIAR ES LA Federico-Tena World Trade Historical Database

This website contains annual series of population by polity from 1800 to 1938 which sum as series for continent and world. Please feel free download and use the data but quote as:  Federico, G., Tena Junguito, A. (2023). How many people on earth? World population 1800-1938. Working Papers in Economic History. 23-02 handle:


We offer yearly series of total population for all polities (colonies and independent countries) from 1800 to 1938. Overall, the data-base features 174 series for a total of 21815 country-year observations. To do so, we rely on the obscure but highly praiseworthy work of historical demographers, who painstakingly collected, assessed, and (when necessary) corrected official data and any available information. We fill gaps with interpolations and extrapolate backwards the population from the earliest available figure to 1800 or forward from the latest one to 1938. We also take into account the population movements in neighboring or otherwise comparable polities and also the available information on demographic crises (most notably, the Spanish flu). The country data refer to the present (de facto) population, when possible, adjusted to mid-year. They all include natives, as their omission would bias upwards the growth of population, and refer to current borders – so that some series cover only part of the period (e.g. Austria-Hungary stops in 1918; Czechoslovakia, Hungary, and Poland start in 1919). Overall, the database features 174 series for a total of 21,815 country-year observations. Needless to say, our figures are of widely different quality, ranging from the almost perfect for Scandinavian countries to mere guesswork for sub-Saharian Africa and Oceania in the early 19th century. We assess the reliability of each observation, following Durand (1977), by grading it from ‘A’ (excellent) to ‘E’ (conjecture), with a margin of error ranging from 2.5% (± 1.25% around the ‘true’ value) to over 40% for Es (with a band ±25%). Assuming plausibly that errors in series are independent, we compute the world aggregate error as the sum of variance of polity series. This declines from 18.7% to 12.4% of total population, but about a half of this change is accounted for by the spectacular improvement in the series for Oceania, a consequence of the collapse of the poorly counted native population.


Corrections: We have changed our estimate of population of China in 1826-1829 following Jiang, Tao. "Qing Dynasty Population Statistics System and China's Population from 1741 to 1851." Modern History Research, no. 5 (1990). So China and World Population files have been revised on November 30th 2023.