An Anthropometric History of Early-Modern France

46 Pages Posted: 12 Dec 2003

See all articles by John Komlos

John Komlos

Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich (LMU) - Faculty of Economics; CESifo (Center for Economic Studies and Ifo Institute)

Abstract

The height of the French male population of the Ancien Regime is estimated, on the basis of military records, to have been about 162 cm in the 17th century. This extremely short stature implies that, 'the crisis of the 17th century' had an immense impact on the human organism itself. The improvement in climatic conditions at the turn of the 18th century had an ameliorating effect on the human organism, increasing in size by nearly 4 cms within a span of 12 years. Improved weather had a beneficial impact on agricultural conditions as well as a direct effect on biological processes. The physical stature of men increased until the birth cohorts of the 1740s, to decline thereafter, in keeping with the European pattern, although the decline of the second half of the 18th century was not more severe than elsewhere in Europe. France was not suffering from a prolonged period of malnutrition of unusual severity, and the threat of a Malthusian crisis was mild compared to 17th-century conditions. Hence, the anthropometric evidence supports the notion that the French economic malaise was not a fundamental cause of the political turmoil. To be sure, there were very large social differences in the biological standard of living, which clearly fuelled the fires of revolution. The height of the French upper classes was 7 cm above average, but, that, too, was standard for contemporary Europe.

Keywords: Anthropometrics, early Modern France, physical stature, biological standard of living

JEL Classification: I12, N33

Suggested Citation

Komlos, John, An Anthropometric History of Early-Modern France. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=464061 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.464061

John Komlos (Contact Author)

Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich (LMU) - Faculty of Economics ( email )

Ludwigstrasse 28
Munich, D-80539
Germany

CESifo (Center for Economic Studies and Ifo Institute)

Poschinger Str. 5
Munich, DE-81679
Germany

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