... an excellent primer on the history of census-taking, achieving the rare combination of offering appealing writing for nonexperts and high-quality research for specialists. From ancient Confucian ideas about governance to the contested identities of the West Bank inhabitants, Mr. Whitby traces a fascinating story of why and how governments have counted their people. But perhaps the most remarkable parts of his book are its two chapters on population registries and administration records. Far from being a staid history of accountancy, the story covers the French resistance, precision airstrikes and Kristallnacht ... Mr. Whitby provides a vivid and informative account of modern census-taking, but his book contains a perplexing narrative strand: the laughable view that Christian religious ideas meaningfully prevented the rise of modern censuses ... Worse than being wrong about the Bible, Mr. Whitby’s account of religion is also wrong about censuses. His central argument, that Christianity retarded the advent of census-taking, is false ... There is an interesting story to tell about religion and censuses, but it isn’t one that features religious people as superstitious villains.