Paul S. Ell (Queen’s University of Belfast, N. Ireland)

Contact details:

Centre for Data Digitisation and Analysis
School of Sociology and Social Policy
The Queen’s University of Belfast
Belfast, Northern Ireland, BT7 1NN

Tel: +44 (0)28 90273408
Fax: +44 (0)28 90320668


I graduated from Keele University in 1985 with a degree in History and Geography. After a brief period in the commercial world, in 1987 I studied for an M.A. in English Local History at Leicester University and, in 1989, moved to Birmingham University to work on a Ph.D. on the geography of Victorian religion at the School of Geography. Before the completion of my Ph.D. in 1992 I returned to the Department of English Local History at Leicester University as a Leverhulme research associated working on local geographies of religion. In 1993 I moved to the Queen’s University of Belfast as a research fellow with the Database of Irish Historical Statistics. I subsequently became a senior research fellow working on the Great Britain Historical GIS Project and, in 1998, Director of the Centre for Data Digitisation and Analysis.

Selected Publications:

Paul S. Ell and T.R. Slater, 'The Religious Census of 1851: a computer-mapped survey of the Church of England', Journal of Historical Geography, vol. 20, pp. 44-61, 1994.

Margery Tranter in collaboration with David A. Barton and Paul S. Ell, The Derbyshire Returns to the 1851 Religious Census, Derbyshire Record Society, ISBN 0 946324 19 0, 1995.

Paul S. Ell, A survey of visualisation tools in the social sciences - current practice, AGOCG Technical Report Series 42, ISSN 1356-9066, 1998.

Liam Kennedy, Paul S. Ell, E.M. Crawford, L.A. Clarkson, Mapping the Great Irish Famine, An survey of the famine decades, Four Courts Press, ISBN 1 85182 353 0, 1999.

K.D.M.Snell and Paul S, Ell, Rival Jerusalems: The Geography of Victorian Religion, Cambridge University Press, ISBN 0 521 771552, July 2000.

K. Bartley, Paul S. Ell and J. Lee, 'From manuscript to multimedia', History and Computing, in press, 2000.

Paul S. Ell and David A. Gatley, A SECOS Database and Work Book of British and Irish Census Statistics, in press, 2000.

Paul S. Ell – Current Research

The Centre for Data Digitisation and Analysis is currently involved in a number of projects that involve my time. I am funded half-time to work on the Great Britain Historical GIS project (shortly to be replaced by work on Building the National Health) and half time on other Centre projects. The work ranges from the creation of digital research resources to substantive research with a statistical and spatial bias.

The Great Britain Historical Geographical Information System Project

In April 1998 we received a grant (with the Universities of Portsmouth and Bristol) for £260,300 from the Economic and Social Research Council to construct an historical time-variant GIS for the British Isles. My team are responsible for populating the GIS with statistical data, much of it drawn from the decennial censuses. In addition to GIS construction, we are working on an atlas celebrating the bi-centenary of the first modern British census in 1801.

Building the National Health

With collaborators at the Universities of Portsmouth and Cambridge, in late 1999 we were awarded a grant by the Wellcome Trust to gather and analyse mortality data for Great Britain. CDDA will be digitising the enormous body of printed statistical data for Britain collected between 1851 and 1939.

The Database of Irish Historical Statistics

An earlier ESRC-funded project involved the comprehensive data capture of many recurrent Irish census statistics. The process of data collection is now complete and all the datasets have been deposited with the ESRC Data Archive at the University of Essex. I am now in the process, with others, of using the resource in research. Recently we have published Mapping the Great Irish Famine with further papers to follow.

Geography of religion

I first analysed the British 1851 Census of Religious Worship as part of my Ph.D. studies. Subsequently I have worked with the religious census at a range of spatial levels and related it to other religious sources and socio-economic statistics. A co-authored book describing this work will be published in July

An Index of the statistical content of the printed British and Irish census volumes

CDDA has been funded to construct an index of the statistics contained in printed census volumes for the British Isles. In all there are 19 censuses for Great Britain and 16 for Ireland. From the mid-nineteenth century the printed reports stretch to several volumes and thousands of pages. These volumes provide a rich vein of statistical data on the social and economic makeup of the British Isles. There remains a significant problem in the utilisation of this important resource. Many scholars are simply not aware of the statistical breadth of the censuses. This project will address these problems though the compilation of a comprehensive online index of each and every census table thus allowing scholars to quickly apprise themselves of the scope of these important resources.

Digitisation work

I am involved in the creation of a range of research resources including a pilot study to computerise the Scottish Statistical Accounts, the digitisation of the Scottish National Dictionary, the creation of an imagebase of census pages and the development of a teaching resource using the data handling package SECOS and British and Irish Census data.

Other work

I have an interest in approaches to distance learning and visualisation techniques. I am list owner of two e-mail discussion groups – history-digitisation and visualisation-tools at

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