Health, Height and Welfare: Britain 1700-1980
65 Pages Posted: 3 Sep 2000 Last revised: 30 Mar 2023
Date Written: May 1996
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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