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Optimists or pessimists? A reconsideration of nutritional status in Britain, 1740–1865




We revise previous estimates on average nutritional status in Britain during the industrial revolution. We find that average nutritional status declined substantially throughout the period 1740–1865, with a partial recovery only for the cohorts born in 1805–9 and 1810–14. The decline in nutritional status estimated for the second half of the eighteenth century is consistent with recent estimates of food prices and farm labour wages. We suggest that parliamentary enclosures and the decline of cottage industry could partially explain the fall in nutritional status. In addition, comparing the age at final attainment of height of a group of rural residents with a group of urban migrants we provide further evidence about the negative impact of urbanization during the early industrial revolution.

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  • Cinnirella, Francesco, 2008. "Optimists or pessimists? A reconsideration of nutritional status in Britain, 1740–1865," European Review of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 12(03), pages 325-354, December.
  • Handle: RePEc:cup:ereveh:v:12:y:2008:i:03:p:325-354_00

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Galor, Oded, 2005. "From Stagnation to Growth: Unified Growth Theory," Handbook of Economic Growth,in: Philippe Aghion & Steven Durlauf (ed.), Handbook of Economic Growth, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 4, pages 171-293 Elsevier.
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    3. Weir, David R., 1984. "Life Under Pressure: France and England, 1670–1870," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 44(01), pages 27-47, March.
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    5. Gregory Clark, 2007. "Introduction to A Farewell to Alms: A Brief Economic History of the World," Introductory Chapters,in: A Farewell to Alms: A Brief Economic History of the World Princeton University Press.
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    Cited by:

    1. Stolz, Yvonne & Baten, Joerg, 2012. "Brain drain in the age of mass migration: Does relative inequality explain migrant selectivity?," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 49(2), pages 205-220.
    2. Steckel, Richard H., 2009. "Heights and human welfare: Recent developments and new directions," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 46(1), pages 1-23, January.
    3. Robert C. Allen, 2015. "The high wage economy and the industrial revolution: a restatement," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 68(1), pages 1-22, February.
    4. Brian A'Hearn & John Komlos, 2015. "The Decline in the Nutritional Status of the U.S. Antebellum Population at the Onset of Modern Economic Growth," CESifo Working Paper Series 5691, CESifo Group Munich.
    5. Greif, Avner & Iyigun, Murat & Sasson, Diego, 2011. "Risk, Institutions and Growth: Why England and Not China?," IZA Discussion Papers 5598, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    6. Coppola, Michela, 2013. "The biological standard of living and mortality in Central Italy at the beginning of the 19th century," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 11(4), pages 453-464.
    7. Dobado-González, Rafael & Garcia-Hiernaux, Alfredo, 2017. "Two worlds apart: Determinants of height in late 18th century central Mexico," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 24(C), pages 153-163.
    8. Ahmed S. Rahman, 2017. "Rise of the Machines Redux – Education, Technological Transition and Long-run Growth," Departmental Working Papers 61, United States Naval Academy Department of Economics.
    9. Dobado González, Rafael & García Montero, Héctor, 2010. "Colonial Origins of Inequality in Hispanic America? Some Reflections Based on New Empirical Evidence," Revista de Historia Económica, Cambridge University Press, vol. 28(02), pages 253-277, September.
    10. repec:eee:streco:v:41:y:2017:i:c:p:43-52 is not listed on IDEAS
    11. Rafael Dobado González & Hector García, 2009. "Neither so low nor so short! Wages and heights in eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries colonial Hispanic America," Working Papers del Instituto Complutense de Estudios Internacionales 0914, Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Instituto Complutense de Estudios Internacionales.
    12. José M. Martínez-Carrión & Pedro M. Pérez-Castroviejo & Javier Puche-Gil & Josep M. Ramon-Muñoz, 2014. "Living standards and rural-urban height gap during the early stages of modern economic growth in Spain," Documentos de Trabajo de la Sociedad Española de Historia Agraria 1410, Sociedad Española de Historia Agraria.
    13. Robert Allen, 2013. "Poverty Lines in History, Theory, and Current International Practice," Economics Series Working Papers 685, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.
    14. Martin Ravallion, 2013. "The Idea of Antipoverty Policy," NBER Working Papers 19210, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

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