Census of India, 1911; Volume I; Part I – Report


This report on the Census of India, 1911 – the fourth general census – was prepared by Edward Albert Gait, an administrator in the Indian Civil Service and a fellow of the Royal Statistical Society. It contains an overview of British India’s history, economy and political and administrative set-up between 1901 and 1911.

The census team of nearly two million members surveyed around 22 provinces. It collected information on population, age, sex, religion, caste, tribe, race, birthplace, education, marriage, occupation, language, migration and infirmities. However, the recurrence of plague interfered with the team’s enumeration in some parts of the country. In towns such as Gaya, Indore and Nagpur, people had to temporarily relocate. This decrease in the population yielded erroneous results.

The census covered the whole ‘Empire of India’, including Baluchistan, the ‘Agencies’ and tribal areas of the North-West Frontier Province, and several remote tracts in Burma. It did not cover the Frontier States of Afghanistan, Nepal, Bhutan and the French and Portuguese Settlements.


  1. In 1911, the ‘Indian Empire’ was spread across 1.8 million square miles, some 36,000 more than in 1901. The provinces under British administration covered 1.09 million square miles, while the remaining area consisted of the ‘Native States’.

  2. The total population of India was 31.56 crores, an increase of 7.1 per cent from 1901. In 1911, 77.5 per cent of the population lived in the British territories and the remaining 22.5 per cent in the Native States. India’s total population was higher than that of Europe (excluding Russia) and was over three times that of the United States.

  3. Only 9.5 per cent of the population in India lived in towns as compared to 78.1 per cent in England and Wales, and 45 per cent in Germany.

  4. The urban population in Bombay Presidency was 18 per cent, but it was only 3 per cent in Assam. In the author’s colonially-determined view, the ‘Mongoloid element’ in eastern India was less inclined to settle in towns than ‘the Dravidian and other races’.

  5. Plague was far more prevalent in towns than in rural areas. This led to a fall in the urban population, from 9.9 per cent in 1901 to 9.5 per cent in 1911. 

  6. Nearly 6.5 million people died from the plague between 1901 and 1911; over a third of the deaths occurred in the Punjab and two-fifths in the United Provinces and Bombay Presidency. The report notes that in northern India, the disease affected more women than men and more people in the ‘prime of their lives’.

  7. From 18.9 million acres at the beginning of the decade, the total irrigated area in 1910-11 increased to 22.5 million acres.

  8. By 1910-11, there were about 250 cotton mills employing 2.31 lakh people as compared to only 58 mills in 1880-81 which employed 48,000 people. In the same period, the number of jute mills also increased to 58 from 21 and the number of people employed in them rose to 2.16 lakh from 35,000 in 1880-81. Similarly, total coal production, from barely 1 million tons in 1880-81, increased to over 12 million tons in 1910-11.

  9. There were 954 females per 1,000 males in 1911 as compared to 963 females per 1,000 males in 1901. The report says that this decrease was due to female mortality as a result of epidemics such as plague and malaria – and since women were “much more prone to infection” than men. While the lowest proportion of females to males was in the north-west, the highest was in Madras, the Central Provinces and Berar, Bihar, Orissa and Burma.

  10. Only 59 persons per 1,000 of the population could read and write. The number of literate males was 106 per 1,000 whereas literate females were only 10 per 1,000. 

  11. Among the British provinces, Burma had the highest levels of literacy as Buddhist monks imparted ‘free instruction’ in the monasteries. For every 1,000 people, there were 376 males and 61 females who could read and write. Following Burma were Bengal, Madras and Bombay Presidencies, while the United Provinces, the Central Provinces and Berar had the lowest literacy levels.

  12. Around 71 per cent of the total population was engaged in agriculture and pasturing animals, while the rest practised all the other occupations.


    Focus and Factoids by Sushmita Iyer.


Edward Albert Gait


Public domain (originally published by the Superintendent of Government Printing, Calcutta)


01 Jan, 1913