Gaming Harry Potters World IV – Demographics Of Wizarding Great Britain

Due to various interruptions, things are a bit behind – so I’m going to be back-posting and playing catchup for a while.

And for today it’s a question about a Harry Potter article (and II and III) – and why it assumed that the Wizarding Population was fairly small.

Eh, I think the Weasleys existence is at least a strong indication that this isn’t actually the case. The Weaselys have like half-a-dozen kids within less than ten years of each other, and it certainly isn’t treated like a ludicrous freak of nature for that to happen.

There’s also a more or less expected number of siblings and such in the Harry Potter books, which seems like isn’t something that would happen in that case.

Honestly, I get why you are making that claim, but it certainly doesn’t seem to be the case.

-Jirachi386

Ah, the Weasleys! Proof positive that Wizards often have extremely large families! After all, there were seven Weasley children (or possibly more, given that books for kids probably wouldn’t mention any deaths in early childhood).

Actually, due to most terrible black art of all – mathematics – a careful look shows it to be the other way around.

  • We’re straight out told in the books that the Weasley tendency to have large numbers of children was considered quite abnormal. We may not like Malfoy, but no one in the books argues with his statement.
  • According to the Weasleys themselves: “We’re the biggest blood traitor family there is.”
  • According to Sirius Black: “The pure-blood families are all interrelated. If you’re only going to let your sons and daughters marry pure-bloods, your choice is very limited; there are hardly any of us left.”
  • Pottermore tells us, with emphasis, that there are a lot of Weasleys – while actually showing a fairly small family. Importantly, we’re told that, for the last couple of generations, the Weasley children have all been male. Arthur Weasley was one of three brothers, two of them were killed in the first wizarding war, leaving no descendants. So a family of two adults and seven children with no cousins… is one of the biggest wizarding families.
  • We’re also told that, while the current generation was technically pureblooded (all grandparents being magical), the Weasleys were proud of their relationship to interesting muggles. According to Ron Weasley “Most wizards these days are half-blood anyway. If we hadn’t married Muggles we’d’ve died out.”

So the Weasleys, with seven kids, are apparently on the outer end of the bell curve of wizarding family size.

How does that compare with Muggles from a similar cultural period, back before overcrowding, urbanization, and such (which don’t seem to be much of a problem for Wizards and Witches) started reducing the muggle birth rate?

  • According to the census records, the average American woman in 1800 had seven to eight children.
  • I used to live down the street from a farmer with eleven kids, and that family wasn’t particularly unusual.
  • One of my great-grandmothers had twenty-one children, most of which lived.
  • The greatest officially recorded number of children born to one mother is 69 – to the wife of Feodor Vassilyev (b. 1707-c.1782), a peasant from Shuya, Russia. In 27 confinements she gave birth to 16 pairs of twins, seven sets of triplets and four sets of quadruplets. (The man then had 18 more children by his second wife. We know that 84 of the 87 lived).

Similarly, we have all those Pureblooded houses which are almost extinct. How does that happen? There should be endless collateral branches to inherit even if something happens to the direct line of descent. That’s why everyone with even a trace of Northern European ancestry can claim descent from Charlemagne – and why almost everyone in Eurasia can claim descent from Genghis Khan (and many, MANY, millions can claim both). Normal family trees expand – yet we are explicitly told that Wizarding family trees tend to vanish.

Even given the smaller sample size, which narrows the trailing edges of the bell curve, if seven kids is an exceptionally large family… then something is very seriously wrong with magical families ability to reproduce.

So what other evidence do we have on the size of the Wizarding population?

Lets look at Hogwarts.

Hogwarts was built to be a Wizarding school in 990, and has not been extensively rebuilt, or there would not be unknown pipes in the walls big enough for a large snake and bathroom facilities dating back to the founding that contain undiscovered secret passages (although some magical remodeling to get that modern look seems likely). There may have been magical expansion – but it is strongly implied that the magical population when the place was built was enough to call for a sizeable school. Since that school is still sufficient, the magical population cannot have expanded too much.

The muggle population of England has increased by a factor of thirty since 990 – and when the school was built there were enough muggle-born mages for Salizar Slythern to have considered them a problem. Thus, if there are not now very large – in fact, utterly dominant – numbers of muggle-born wizards, then the percentage of kids born to muggles who turn out to be wizards has decreased drastically over the last thousand years.

At the most basic, if wizards were successfully reproducing themselves, their population growth should be keeping pace with the muggle population growth. That would mean that – when Hogwarts was founded – there were only about a hundred magic-users in all Great Britain, and (since wizards are stated to live longer than muggles) only 1-2 magical kids per year. Hogwarts would have had about ten kids in attendance (not per class, in total across all seven years). That’s not enough to make four houses or to call for a huge castle is it?

Maybe a lot of modern wizarding kits were home-schooled, and therefore Hogwarts did not need to be expanded?

But the books tell us that “Attendance is now compulsory for every young witch and wizard. That was announced yesterday. It’s a change, because it was never obligatory before. Of course, nearly every witch and wizard in Britain has been educated at Hogwarts, but their parents had the right to teach them at home or send them abroad if they preferred.”. So J.K. Rowling flat-out tells us that home schooling was permitted, but was not a significant factor.

Hogwarts is telling us that the Wizarding population may have increased, but not all that much – nothing like the degree to which the muggle population has increased. That is reproductive failure. If pureblooded houses are dying out, that is reproductive failure. The Wizarding World is not producing enough kids to sustain itself (if it was, the muggle-born would be extras and the population would be rising sharply) and the muggle contribution is dropping.

Interestingly, there may be some on-the-job education, but this implies that magical doctors and such are considered ready to go into practice at seventeen or eighteen years old. Magical Great Britain has no colleges. Medieval standards again.

What about the rest of the country?

Great Britain’s magical community has…

  • One medical hospital – which also seems to serve as magical Great Britain’s psychiatric hospital, medical research center, and long-term care facility. Even if we take it that magical cures are often a lot better than mundane ones, we know that the First Wizarding War left a fair number of long-term patients in care. And yet there’s only one facility.
  • One prison / torture chamber / Dementor holding area. Perhaps most punishments are simply fines? But they were locking up a fair percentage of the Death Eaters – the army on the other side of a civil war.
  • One irregular medieval street of small shops, apparently mostly operated by individual magical craftsman – which seems to be the only magical shopping center in Great Britain. Given that what few companies are mentioned also seem to have their offices there it apparently serves as the business district as well. It has one major entrance – through a small classical tavern. It doesn’t even look like it’s been updated in centuries. Real estate there is apparently relatively cheap through; Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes was able to open there for less than a thousand galleons – less than seven thousand dollars for a prime bit of real estate in the business district.
  • One absolutely vital supply, that every Wizard and Witch needs and thus is an absolutely vital national resource – wands – with no mention of their being more than one supplier, and that supplier being an elderly craftsman (presumably with a family that helps out although this is never stated) who interacts with his customers personally, who takes a good deal of time to make each sale, who’s shop is not particularly busy even during the start of school when young wizards and witches are coming in for their wands, and who seems to remember each customer and each wand he’s sold. The shop, incidentally, has apparently been in operation on the same spot (“Established 382 BC”) for more than two thousand years.
  • One Night Bus, which apparently serves the entire country and isn’t particularly crowded. Admittedly, adult wizards have a lot of other ways to travel – but still; ONE.
  • One extremely amateurish newspaper – which does little or no actual investigation, has no apparent professional ethics, has very poor editorial control, is manipulated by the Ministry of Magic, and which operates out of a single office in Diagon Alley. There is also a notable conspiracy-theory “paper” (The Quibbler) put out by a single nut case – and which is apparently the most widely read alternative newspaper in Wizarding Great Britain.
  • No banks. The Goblins have a “bank”, but you’ll note that it keeps it’s customers money in locked personal vaults. There’s no investing or centralized bookkeeping. It apparently charges fees for protecting your money rather than paying interest. There is no mention of loans, stocks, bonds, or any other modern financial implement. It’s a medieval money-changer and safety-deposit box renter writ large. The wizarding world does not have anything like a modern financial system – and it’s currency system seems to be run by the Goblins, not by Wizards and Witches. The Goblins are just letting the Wizarding World use their monetary system.
  • One small hamlet outside of Hogwarts which is specifically noted as being the only wizards-only settlement in Great Britain.
  • One legislative group. The Wizengamot is supposed to have about fifty members – and being a member is not a full-time job or Dumbledore couldn’t be Chief Warlock and still serve as Headmaster at Hogwarts. It apparently serves as the legislative, executive, and judicial (both civil and criminal) system for all magical Great Britain. It’s apparently the current incarnation of the medieval Wizards Council – so it’s likely mostly full of the heads of old wizarding families. Quite a lot of it’s members are supposed to be extremely elderly too (and are likely semi-retired from all but the most important sessions). So an effective body of somewhat less than fifty part-timers is handling everything.
  • When it comes to Sports, there are thirteen recognized Quidditch Teams (for a total of 91 players plus possible, but not noted, alternates in Magical Great Britain) – but there’s no indication of what it takes to qualify as a recognized team. After all, England (not Great Britain, just England) has more than 7000 recognized mens soccer teams of eleven plus alternates that compete each year in the formal system. That’s not counting womens teams (which compete separately) – and there are plenty of teams that aren’t in the leagues, adding up to well over a hundred thousand players. Ninety-one confirmed serious players of the worlds most popular sport… is not very many.
  • An unspecified number of Aurors, who seem to serve as law enforcement, court bailiffs, magical investigators, prison guards, and the national military. So how many might there be?
    • They could be fought effectively by a group of death eaters small enough to gather in a field.
    • They have only one division.
    • According to Minerva McGonagall, no Auror had been taken on by the Ministry of Magic for three years prior to 1995 – so we have a national police and military force that didn’t hire anyone for three years.
    • They work out of one floor of a single building, where everyone has their own cubicle.
      • For comparison, Muggle Great Britain has an active military force of more than 150,000 people, and about half that many reservists – not counting law enforcement, court duties, investigation, and prison guards. They hire tens of thousands of people every single year.
  • The Hogwarts Express runs between Kings Cross and Hogsmead and seems to imply a substantial society. After all, laying rails and building a locomotive and cars is not a small project – but Pottermore strongly implies that the Wizards stole the train (and possibly the station for it) from the muggles. Given the way the Night Bus travels, and the train only making six runs a year, it can probably arrange to use existing tracks – so you’d only need a spur line. It’s not that big a problem.

There really isn’t any way around it; if you accept the information from the original books there aren’t enough Wizards and Witches in Great Britain to make more than a very small town – and their society is still using facilities that – in many cases – have not been significantly expanded or updated in hundreds of years. Given that that population is fairly well spread out… If they didn’t use the Floo Network, Portkeys, Apparition, and other forms of magical fast travel they wouldn’t have a society at all.

Given the lack of new infrastructure, their population has – at best – remained mostly static for many centuries, while the muggle population has boomed. Since there were enough Muggleborn wizards around for Salizar Slythern to worry about them, and yet they do not now dominate… the percentage of magical children born to muggles must have dropped enormously. We are directly informed that the pureblooded houses are dying out. Half-bloods may be doing all right for the moment, but the decrease in overall contributions from the majority population will eventually catch up with them as well.

An ongoing reduction in frequency in the general population is the textbook definition of a subgroup that is headed for extinction.

Personally, I am not sure that Wizards and Witches aren’t mostly parasitic – giving even the “good guy” families a reason to remain hidden. Would you put it past the Malfoy’s in (say) the 1500’s to simply move into an estate, obliviate or eliminate the few muggle claimants, set up a muggle-keep-away ward, and just take over? And after that… there are no apparent taxes, the maintenance is handled by house-elf magic and their own charms, and the only major expenses are occasional new clothes (is there any reason why house elves or spells won’t fix those too?) and food (or could they or the house elves just steal that from local muggle shops and farmers?). After all… Wizards don’t seem to build or produce much save for kitchen gardens, handicrafts and the occasional slapped-together house.

As for getting money… are we really sure that they don’t just take it or charge knowing muggles for occasional magical services? “Psychic” and “Spellcasting” services are popular in the real world. I think they’d be even more popular if you sometimes got real (if non-obvious to maintain secrecy) results.

For an example…

Number 12 Grimmauld Place, was formerly a handsome Muggle townhouse built in London. At some point, an early member of the wizarding House of Black coveted the beautiful house and managed to “persuade” the original Muggle occupant to leave, and put the appropriate spells on it.

-JK Rowling on Twitter

Even with the nicer families, once they marry into a family with some money (easy), the statute of secrecy virtually requires them to erase the household from all muggle records and put up keep-away charms. It would explain why so magical facilities seem to be in old muggle buildings.

For that matter, the Ministry of Magic is known to the muggle prime minister and is tied to the muggle government. Are we really sure that most of their clerks and functionaries aren’t employees of the muggle government, paid to keep the wizards from causing trouble? It would certainly make a lot of their policies seem more sensible and explain where their budget comes from.

Overall there are a LOT of reasons presented in the books as to why the Wizarding World is fundamentally a very small place – and only one or two spots (the description of the construction of the world cup quidditch arena being the main one) that offer contradictory evidence. It being a literary work rather than something we can really observe… we are pretty much stuck with going with the preponderance of the evidence – and that is VERY heavily (or overwhelmingly) weighted towards there not being that many wizards.

And that is why that article assumes that the Wizarding population is pretty small. It doesn’t really address “why” – perhaps the Potterverse only has a limited amount of magic, so there will always be roughly the same number of wizards (and other magical creatures) in England no matter what. Perhaps muggleborn are less likely to get one of those “slots”, but when they do the potential wizarding kid never gets conceived or is stillborn. Maybe it’s just a “dying magic” universe, with a slowly-decreasing chance of magical beings reproducing and of creatures being spontaneously born magical. Who knows? All we’ve got to look at are the results.

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