Michel Foucault, Security, Territory, Population: Lectures at the Collège de France 1977-78, 274
I haven’t quite finished The Courage of Truth yet, although I’m on to its poignant final lecture, but I bought this book too because what I’m researching for my job currently are the last two items above: territory (‘cadastral’, or property, mapping) and population (official censuses) as part of a study of state development. As it happened, it was The Birth of Biopolitics which coincidentally reignited my interest in that formative period of political history centering on the mid-17th century - through his discussion of the emergence of the rule of law and economic liberalism, as biopolitical technique of ‘governmental rationality’. Security, Territory, Population form the preceding year’s lectures, covers similar issues in somewhat more general and fundamental terms.
According to the translator’s notes, here “Foucault is alluding to the works of William Petty (1623-84), founder of political arithmetic” - and writer of a treatise of that same name (albeit with an ick). Additionally:
"After establishing the cadaster of the island, Petty, who was employed as a doctor in the government of Ireland, was asked to divide up the land taken from the Catholics and distribute it to the English troops and their sponsors. From this experience came his work, The Political Economy of Ireland.”
Specifically, following the rebellion of Irish Catholics against English rule in 1641 and the subsequent reconquest of the island following the victory of Cromwell and the Parliamentarian army in the English Civil War (which had its own Irish and Scottish counterparts), Petty was responsible for surveying the land forfeited by Catholic landowners for their disloyalty, and to be redistributed amongst new, loyal Protestant subjects. This was the last and most extensive of the ‘plantations’ through the colonial period of Irish history in the 16th and 17th centuries, and although the Ulster plantation in 1609 was the most effective in changing the population on the ground (as can be seen in the situation of Northern Ireland today) the Cromwellian Settlement had an infamous legacy in the rest of the island as the definitive removal of Catholic landownership east of the Shannon - “to hell or Connaught”.
The ‘cadaster’ produced by Petty was a two-part process, beginning with the ‘Civil Survey’, a written record of landownership as it stood status quo ante in 1641, and the ‘Down Survey’ - prosaically named after the act of laying down chains in surveying - a map of the physical boundaries of forfeited land in each parish of the country. Trinity College a few years ago produced an online version of the surviving maps, the oldest detailed cartographic record of Ireland as a whole, and one not repeated on such a scale and official basis until nearly 200 years later with the establishment of the Ordnance Survey. It is surpassed in scale, however, by a more detailed undertaking begun in Sweden in the 1630s and completed by the first decade of the next century; and in general, large-scale mapping occurred throughout Europe, especially under Napoleon, at greater scale and at earlier points in time than in England or in Ireland.
The question, therefore, of how advanced English cartographic and statistical knowledge of its territories - and thus Foucault’s claim - actually was, is an interesting one - with a lot of bearing on how the state exercised its power. Especially as in the case of cadastral mapping it is directly related to property (and usually, although not in this particular case, taxation). I’ve learnt, through the doyen of Irish cartographical history J.H. Andrews, that the Down Survey was preceded by earlier, regional surveys - including one produced in connection with the Munster Plantation in the 1580s that has survived and is digitised in the Trinity manuscript archive. Much of the map (of Limerick county) may look rather crude, but what is interesting is the parcels of forfeited land, with boundaries carefully outlined in red, which according to Andrews were originally surveyed at a scale equivalent to (or actually greater than, due to a shift in units) the Down Survey parish maps.
While it doesn’t match the comprehensive detail of later cadastral maps, it is a leap of innovation in combining the general ‘topographical’ map of the landscape, roughly measured and crudely drawn, with the more exacting boundaries of property ‘escheated’ to the Crown. It shows a visual representation of the extent of state power, on the physical territory which also becomes a mathematically quantifiable space. Foucault identifies the term ‘population’ with the modern subject of state policy and economic action, as opposed to a mere collection of individuals under the rule of a king, and I think a similar process happens here with ‘territory’. What was subsequently done with ‘statistics’, that is the knowledge of the state, in the economic and political management of Ireland, particularly in the 19th century, is something I hope to return to at a later stage.