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Optimists or pessimists? A reconsideration of nutritional status in Britain, 1740–1865

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 December 2008

FRANCESCO CINNIRELLA*
Affiliation:
Department of Economics, University of Munich, Ludwigstrasse 33, Munich 80539, Germany, cinnirella@econhist.de
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Abstract

We revise previous estimates on average nutritional status in Britain during the industrial revolution. We find that average nutritional status declined substantially throughout the period 1740–1865, with a partial recovery only for the cohorts born in 1805–9 and 1810–14. The decline in nutritional status estimated for the second half of the eighteenth century is consistent with recent estimates of food prices and farm labour wages. We suggest that parliamentary enclosures and the decline of cottage industry could partially explain the fall in nutritional status. In addition, comparing the age at final attainment of height of a group of rural residents with a group of urban migrants we provide further evidence about the negative impact of urbanization during the early industrial revolution.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © European Historical Economics Society 2008

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