I have been doing a
bit of browsing in the Guinness World Fact Book - an excellent reference
work for discovering everything you ever wanted to know (and several
things you didn't) about most countries in the world. Particularly
interesting are the listed population figures - based on 1991 estimates -
which indicate quite clearly that the present-day population of Yorkshire
makes it considerably larger than a great many countries of the world. In
fact, it would be in the top half of the world's most populated countries,
were it an independent nation.
Did you know, for instance, that Yorkshire has a greater population than
nations like Ireland, Denmark, Norway, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania, Libya,
Panama, Paraguay, Uruguay and New Zealand, is approximately equal in size
to countries like Israel and El Salvador and has a greater population than
all but 14 states of the USA?
Applying the same relative figures throughout the last two centuries, it
is reasonable to assume that this has always been the case, and I ask our
overseas cousins to remember this when they ask blithely for lookups of
"my gt-gt-grandfather John Smith, born in Yorkshire" in a census that
hasn't been surname indexed!!!
Those who are easily bored with statistics need read no further, but I
thought perhaps it may help others to understand the size of Yorkshire in
relation to many independent countries of the world and to get the family
history of your Yorkshire ancestors into some kind of perspective.
I base my estimate of Yorkshire's modern population on the fact that ever
since the first UK census of 1801, the official figures show that the
county has consistently held within its borders approximately 10% of the
population of Britain. Given, then, that the UK population today is 57-60
million, the current population of Yorkshire is around 5-and-a-half to 6
million. This figure is loosely supported when one adds up the grand total
of the huge conurbations of the West Riding and other major towns.
This makes it roughly twice the size of Wales (2,900,000), substantially
larger than the Irish Republic (3,500,000) and probably larger in
population than Scotland (5,111,000). However, it comes as a bit of a
surprise to find that Yorkshire is also larger than the following
countries of Europe: Denmark (5,162,000), Finland (5,092,000), Norway
(4,272,000), Iceland (264,000), Cyprus (756,000), Malta (360,000) Albania
(3,422,000), Bosnia (4,365,000), Croatia (4,821,000), Estonia (1,536,000),
Latvia (2,596.,000), Lithuania (3,760,000), Macedonia (2,063,000),
Slovakia (5,290,000) and Slovenia (1,966,000). Of course, I have not
counted all the tiddly little countries like Andorra, Luxembourg,
Liechtenstein, Monaco, Gibraltar, San Marino, etc, that don't add up even
to the population of Leeds or Sheffield!
Further afield than Europe, Yorkshire's population is larger than more
than 20 countries of Africa and larger than the following countries of
Central and South America: Belize (204,000), Costa Rica (3,200,000),
Guyana (730,000), Honduras (5,150,000), Nicaragua (4,265,000), Panama
(2,563,000), Paraguay (4,613,000), Surinam (405,000), Uruguay (3,150,000).
In the USA, Yorkshire's population exceeds that of every state with the
exception of the following: California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois,
Indiana (roughly about the same), Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New
York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas and Virginia. It is over
twice the size of (and several times the size of) some states: for
instance, Alaska, Arkansas, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Maine,
Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North
and South Dakota (together), Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont, West Virginia
I won't bother giving the figures for the numerous Middle Eastern, Asian,
Caribbean and Pacific countries that have smaller populations than
Yorkshire, since I'm sure you've got the message by now. In fact, were it
an independent nation Yorkshire would be about 95th out of some 200
countries in the world - in the top half, in other words.
NOW, do you folks over there and in Oz understand why I am constantly
stressing how big Yorkshire is and why you should try to be specific in
your enquiries? Seriously, I hope this quick rundown gives you some idea
of the size of the problem when you are researching in our great (in all
senses of the word) county.
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