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Health, Height and Welfare: Britain 1700-1980

  • Roderick Floud
  • Bernard Harris

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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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Historical Working Papers with number 0087.

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Date of creation: May 1996
Date of revision:
Publication status: published as Steckel, Richard H. and Roderick Floud (eds.) Health and Welfare During Industrialization. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1997.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberhi:0087
Note: DAE
Contact details of provider: Postal: National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Avenue Cambridge, MA 02138, U.S.A.
Phone: 617-868-3900
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  1. 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, 08.
  2. 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.
  3. John Komlos, . "The Secular Trend in the Biological Standard of Living in the United Kingdom, 1730-1860," Articles by John Komlos 19, Department of Economics, University of Munich.
  4. Floud, Roderick, 1984. "Measuring the Transformation of the European Economies: Income, Health and Welfare," CEPR Discussion Papers 33, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  5. 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.
  6. John Komlos & Joo Han Kim, . "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, 02.
  8. 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, 02.
  9. 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, 08.
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