Harry Potter and the Small Hogwarts Class Size


Hogwarts was normally a school of a thousand students, but Rowling gave Harry Potter’s year only thirty-five of them, and the reason may have something to do with Lord Voldemort.

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It’s no secret that J.K. Rowling doesn’t consider math her forte. If we take estimates given by Rowling to heart, the student population of Hogwarts could range anywhere from 600 to 1,000. But for Harry Potter’s year, there were around 40 students in total. No matter how you spin it, if this class size were the status quo for each year, you’d never come close to either number.

Although it seems like Rowling’s idea of Hogwarts is based more on using our imagination than on facts and figures, there could be some in-universe logic to her choice.

Hypable offers support to the fan theory that during the peak of the war, when Harry and his friends were born, people would be less inclined to have children. And it’s possible to see validation for this in the books as well. In Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, when discussing overzealous celebration from the wizarding world, Dumbledore says, “You can’t blame them. We’ve had precious little to celebrate for eleven years.”

Eleven years before that time would be exactly when Harry’s parents started going to Hogwarts. So even though Voldemort wasn’t at his most powerful until several years later, every student going to Hogwarts during the 1970s would’ve felt the effects of the war. Going through a decade of war can drastically decrease a population.

However, it’s possible the wizarding war might’ve had the opposite effect. In Half-Blood Prince, Mrs. Weasley offers insight into the hurried engagement of Bill and Fleur:

"“It’s all this uncertainty with You-Know-Who coming back, people think they might be dead tomorrow, so they’re rushing all sorts of decisions they’d normally take time over. It was the same last time he was powerful, people eloping left, right, and center —”"

So, if people were making hasty decisions during the war time, why is it that not as many children were in Hogwarts in the 1990s? There might’ve even been a post-war boom in birth, since they’d been feeling so unsafe for more than a decade.

Counter-theory: The reason that there were so few students at Hogwarts in Harry’s year is that more pure-bloods started home-schooling. We hear the Malfoys deride Hogwarts under Dumbledore’s guidance repeatedly. Without the influence of Voldemort, the years following the first war probably saw a more Muggle-friendly environment at Hogwarts. Sirius claims the number of pure-bloods is dwindling, and one way to keep pure-blood children from intermarriage is to remove them from the presence of Muggle-borns entirely. It’s likely that there wouldn’t be enough Muggle-borns and half-bloods to compensate for the loss.

Next: Rowling Says Cursed Child Will Make Audiences Cry

When Voldemort gains control of Hogwarts, he makes pure-blood attendance compulsory. The change suggests that there were several pure-blood families who weren’t attending Hogwarts in the first place.