The Biological Standard of Living in Early Nineteenth‐Century West Africa: New Anthropometric Evidence for Northern Ghana and Burkina Faso

23 Pages Posted: 9 Oct 2012

See all articles by Joerg Baten

Joerg Baten

University of Tuebingen

Bas van Leeuwen

Utrecht University, Humanities; Free University, Humanities; Warwick University, Department of Economics

Date Written: November 2012

Abstract

West Africans are on average shorter than Europeans today. Whether this was already the case at the end of the Atlantic slave trade is an important question for the history of nutrition and physical welfare. We present the first study of changing heights for people born mostly in what are now northern Ghana and Burkina Faso during the early nineteenth century. The dataset, not used before for anthropometry, documents men born between 1800 and 1849. Mostly purchased from slave owners, they were recruited into the Dutch army to serve in the Dutch East Indies. We find that height development was stagnant between 1800 and 1830 and deteriorated strongly during the 1840s. In international comparison and after taking selectivity issues into account, these Ghanaian and Burkinabe recruits were notably shorter than north‐western Europeans but not shorter than southern Europeans during this period.

Suggested Citation

Baten, Joerg and van Leeuwen, Bas, The Biological Standard of Living in Early Nineteenth‐Century West Africa: New Anthropometric Evidence for Northern Ghana and Burkina Faso (November 2012). The Economic History Review, Vol. 65, Issue 4, pp. 1280-1302, 2012. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2159041 or http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-0289.2011.00627.x

Joerg Baten

University of Tuebingen ( email )

Wilhelmstr. 19
72074 Tuebingen, Baden Wuerttemberg 72074
Germany

Bas Van Leeuwen

Utrecht University, Humanities ( email )

Vredenburg 138
Utrecht, 3511 BG
Netherlands

Free University, Humanities ( email )

De Boelelaan 1105
Amsterdam, ND North Holland 1081 HV
Netherlands

Warwick University, Department of Economics ( email )

Coventry CV4 7AL
United Kingdom

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