Health and Nutrition in the Preindustrial Era: Insights from a Millennium of Average Heights in Northern Europe
This essay places the debate over human welfare during industrialization in the context of very long-term economic developments by examining an important aspect of living standards--health and nutrition--since the Middle Ages. I use average stature determined from military records along with a neglected source, skeletal data. Average heights fell from an average of 173.4 centimeters in the early Middle Ages to a low of 165.8 centimeters during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. This decline of 7.6 centimeters exceeds by a factor of two any downturns found during industrialization in several countries that have been studied. Moreover, recovery to levels achieved in the early Middle Ages was not attained until the early twentieth century. The paper links the decline in average height to climate deterioration; growing inequality; urbanization and the expansion of trade and commerce, which facilitated the spread of diseases; the global spread of diseases associated with European expansion and colonization; and conflicts or wars over state building or religion. Because it is reasonable to believe that greater exposure to pathogens accompanied urbanization and industrialization, and there is evidence of climate moderation, increasing efficiency in agriculture and greater inter-regional and international trade in foodstuffs, it is plausible to link height gains that began in the eighteenth century with dietary improvements.
|Date of creation:||Oct 2001|
|Contact details of provider:|| Postal: National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Avenue Cambridge, MA 02138, U.S.A.|
Web page: http://www.nber.org
More information through EDIRC
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:
- Razzell, Peter, 1993. "The Growth of Population in Eighteenth-Century England: A Critical Reappraisal," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 53(04), pages 743-771, December.
- Stanley L. Engerman, 1997. "The Standard of Living Debate in International Perspective: Measures and Indicators," NBER Chapters,in: Health and Welfare during Industrialization, pages 17-46 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
- Lars Sandberg & Richard H. Steckel, 1997. "Was Industrialization Hazardous to Your Health? Not in Sweden!," NBER Chapters,in: Health and Welfare during Industrialization, pages 127-160 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
- John Komlos, 1989. "Nutrition and Economic Development in the Eighteenth-Century Habsburg Monarchy: An Anthropometric History," Books by John Komlos, Department of Economics, University of Munich, number 2.
- Robert W. Fogel, 1986.
"Nutrition and the Decline in Mortality since 1700: Some Preliminary Findings,"
NBER Chapters,in: Long-Term Factors in American Economic Growth, pages 439-556
National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
- Robert W. Fogel, 1984. "Nutrition and the Decline in Mortality Since 1700: Some Preliminary Findings," NBER Working Papers 1402, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
- Kevin H. O'Rourke & Jeffrey G. Williamson, 2001. "Globalization and History: The Evolution of a Nineteenth-Century Atlantic Economy," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262650592, July.
- Richard H. Steckel, 1982. "Height and Per Capita Income," NBER Working Papers 0880, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
- Steckel, Richard H., 1998. "Strategic Ideas in the Rise of the New Anthropometric History and their Implications for Interdisciplinary Research," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 58(03), pages 803-821, September.
- Hoffman, Philip T. & Jacks, David S. & Levin, Patricia A. & Lindert, Peter H., 2002. "Real Inequality In Europe Since 1500," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 62(02), pages 322-355, June.
- J. W. Drukker & Vincent Tassenaar, 1997. "Paradoxes of Modernization and Material Well-Being in the Netherlands during the Nineteenth Century," NBER Chapters,in: Health and Welfare during Industrialization, pages 331-378 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
- Richard H. Steckel, 1999. "Industrialization and Health in Historical Perspective," NBER Historical Working Papers 0118, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
- Richard H. Steckel & Roderick Floud, 1997. "Health and Welfare during Industrialization," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number stec97-1, October.
- repec:ucp:bknber:9780226771564 is not listed on IDEAS Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)