Human population size in the various districts greatly interested British administrators. Yet for most of the nineteenth century census figures remained quite unreliable, often suggesting puzzling or contradictory trends. Recently developed techniques have permitted historians to adjust these figures in order to estimate more accurately some characteristic features of population. Alice Clark employs some of these methods to analyze fertility and mortality trends in Banaras (Clark 1986).
Of interest here are the effects of population pressure on environmental resources. As was noted above, the population of Banaras city was one of northern India's largest throughout the nineteenth century. As a result, the district's population density was listed as the highest in the province. In 1872 it was estimated at more than 300 persons per square kilometer, a representative figure for most of the century. As in much of north India, the measured population of Banaras remained
stable, having attained a relative maximum by mid-century. In fact the low variation in this measure (300 to 350 per square kilometer) seems to mirror the stability of cultivated acreage, which was also reported to have achieved a relative maximum at that time (Shakespear 1848: 12–13, 154; Plowden 1873:xxv, 2–3; Hunter 1881:532; Nevill 1909a: 83–85).
It would be deceptive, however, to suppose that stability in population size and cultivated acreage precluded pressure on land. On the contrary, population increase may have been limited by poverty-induced high mortality, rather than by prosperity. Crowding, land scarcity, and low productivity likely exerted continuous pressure on available resources (Klein 1974:194–99).