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Health, Height, and Welfare: Britain, 1700-1980

In: Health and Welfare during Industrialization

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  • Roderick Floud
  • Bernard Harris

Abstract

This paper reviews the evidence regarding the main trends in the height of the British population since the early eighteenth century. We argue that the average heights of successive birth cohorts of British males increased slowly between the middle of the eighteenth century and the first quarter of the nineteenth century. Average heights fell during the second quarter of the nineteenth century, before rising from the 1850s onwards. This analysis is supported by an examination of the main trends in children's heights during the twentieth century. Our findings are compared with the results of an alternative method of measuring human welfare - a modified version of the United Nations' Human Development Index. The main trends in human development reinforce the conclusions drawn from our own interpretation of the anthropometric evidence.
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Suggested Citation

  • Roderick Floud & Bernard Harris, 1997. "Health, Height, and Welfare: Britain, 1700-1980," NBER Chapters,in: Health and Welfare during Industrialization, pages 91-126 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberch:7429
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. John Komlos, 1993. "The secular trend in the biological standard of living in the United Kingdom, 1730-1860," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 46(1), pages 115-144, February.
    2. R. M. Hartwell, 1961. "The Rising Standard Of Living In England, 1800-1850," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 13(3), pages 397-416, April.
    3. E. G. West, 1970. "Resource Allocation and Growth in Early Nineteenth-Century British Education," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 23(1), pages 68-95, April.
    4. Paul Johnson & Stephen Nicholas, 1995. "Male and female living standards in England and Wales, 1812-1867: evidence from criminal height records," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 48(3), pages 470-481, August.
    5. L. D. Schwarz, 1985. "The Standard of Living in the Long Run: London, 1700–1860," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 38(1), pages 24-36, February.
    6. John Komlos & Joo Han Kim, "undated". "Estimating Trends in Historical Heights," Articles by John Komlos 25, Department of Economics, University of Munich.
    7. Roderick Floud & Kenneth W. Wachter & Annabel Gregory, 1993. "Measuring historical heights-shortcuts or the long way round: a reply to Komlos," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 46(1), pages 145-154, February.
    8. F. W. Botham & E. H. Hunt, 1987. "Wages in Britain during the industrial revolution," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 40(3), pages 380-399, August.
    9. John Komlos, 1993. "A Malthusian episode revisited: the height of British and Irish servants in colonial America," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 46(4), pages 768-782, November.
    10. Mokyr, Joel, 1988. "Is There Still Life in the Pessimist Case? Consumption during the Industrial Revolution, 1790—1850," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 48(01), pages 69-92, March.
    11. Woods, Robert, 1985. "The Effects of Population Redistribution on the Level of Mortality in Nineteenth-Century England and Wales," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 45(03), pages 645-651, September.
    12. Nicholas, Stephen & Steckel, Richard H., 1991. "Heights and Living Standards of English Workers During the Early Years of Industrializations, 1770–1815," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 51(04), pages 937-957, December.
    13. Gregory Clark & Michael Huberman & Peter H. Lindert, 1995. "A British food puzzle, 1770–1850," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 48(2), pages 215-237, May.
    14. Sara Horrell & Jane Humphries, 1995. "Women's labour force participation and the transition to the male-breadwinner family, 1790-1865," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 48(1), pages 89-117, February.
    15. Floud, Roderick, 1984. "Measuring the Transformation of the European Economies: Income, Health and Welfare," CEPR Discussion Papers 33, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    16. Peter H. Lindert & Jeffrey G. Williamson, 1983. "English Workers’Living Standards During the Industrial Revolution: A New Look," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 36(1), pages 1-25, February.
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    Cited by:

    1. Crafts, Nicholas, 1999. "Quantitative economic history," Economic History Working Papers 22390, London School of Economics and Political Science, Department of Economic History.
    2. N. F. R. Crafts, 1997. "Some Dimensions of the ‘Quality of Life’ During the British Industrial Revolution," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 50(4), pages 617-639, November.
    3. Julianne Treme & Lee A. Craig, 2013. "Urbanization, Health And Human Stature," Bulletin of Economic Research, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 65, pages 130-141, May.
    4. Leandro Prados de la Escosura, 2015. "World Human Development: 1870–2007," Review of Income and Wealth, International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, vol. 61(2), pages 220-247, June.
    5. Crafts, Nicholas, 2000. "Development history," Economic History Working Papers 22384, London School of Economics and Political Science, Department of Economic History.
    6. Roderick Floud, 1998. "Height, Weight, and Body Mass of the British Population Since 1820," NBER Historical Working Papers 0108, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. Bernard Harris & Roderick Floud & Robert W. Fogel & Sok Chul Hong, 2010. "Diet, Health and Work Intensity in England and Wales, 1700-1914," NBER Working Papers 15875, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

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