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The First World War and Working-Class Food Consumption in Britain


  • Gazeley, Ian

    () (University of Sussex)

  • Newell, Andrew T.

    () (University of Sussex)


In this paper we reassess the food consumption and dietary impact of the regimes of food and food price control and eventually, food rationing, that were introduced in Britain during the First World War. At the end of the War the Sumner Committee was convened to investigate into effects of these controls on the diets of working class families. With the help of some of the original returns of an earlier 1904 survey, we are able to reassess the Sumner Committee findings. We find that although calories intakes did not fall for households headed by unskilled workers, there were substantial falls for skilled workers’ households. We also find that the price controls were particularly effective in changing the pattern of food spending. In particular, because the prices of many fruits and vegetables were allowed to rise very much more than other foodstuffs, there were large falls in the intakes of nutrients most associated with these foods, to average levels well below today’s recommended intakes.

Suggested Citation

  • Gazeley, Ian & Newell, Andrew T., 2010. "The First World War and Working-Class Food Consumption in Britain," IZA Discussion Papers 5297, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  • Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp5297

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    Cited by:

    1. Ian Gazeley & Andrew Newell, 2015. "Urban working-class food consumption and nutrition in Britain in 1904," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 68(1), pages 101-122, February.
    2. Harrison, Mark, 2014. "Myths of the Great War," CAGE Online Working Paper Series 188, Competitive Advantage in the Global Economy (CAGE).
    3. Joël Floris & Kaspar Staub & Ulrich Woitek, 2016. "Designing dynamic research contests," ECON - Working Papers 236, Department of Economics - University of Zurich.
    4. Floris, Joël & Müller, Consuela & Woitek, Ulrich, 2015. "The Biological Standard of Living in Zurich during WWI," Annual Conference 2015 (Muenster): Economic Development - Theory and Policy 112909, Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association.

    More about this item


    food consumption; nutrition; food controls; Britain; First World War;

    JEL classification:

    • N34 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - Europe: 1913-
    • N44 - Economic History - - Government, War, Law, International Relations, and Regulation - - - Europe: 1913-

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