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Size and Population of Yorkshire

by Roy Stockdill.


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 and Wyoming.

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.

Roy Stockdill                                                                       Back to Articles

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