Principal Investigator – Dr Pedro Ramos Pinto

From the dawn of the modern era, debates about poverty and inequality, and the actions of private and public bodies to address them have been deeply bound up with the question of measurement. From early examples, such as John Snow’s mapping of London cholera outbreaks in 1854, to contemporary debates about the relative merits of the GINI index, the Human Development Index or the use of happiness as a metric of welfare, the measurement, quantification and exposition of social problems has shaped public debate and action. Knowledge, condensed through particular and historical forms of measurement, has also been key in shaping changing social values and attitudes towards inequality.

Drawing on History, Economics, Anthropology and related disciplines, this project will explore the genealogy of the definition, measurement and investigation of inequality. This reflection can help us to understand how contemporary understandings of inequality are connected to contingent past choices about measures and objects of measurement. In more general terms, inquiring as to how measurement, knowledge and public reasoning were connected to processes of value-change in the past is also a contribution to reflecting about our own values and potential for transformation.

The Measure of Inequality project is associated with the Inequality, Social Science and History Network, and will be blogging from

Social Science Research for the 21st Century - Progress through Partnership