NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

The Physical State of the British Working Class, 1870-1914: Evidence from Army Recruits

Roderick Floud, Kenneth W. Wachter, Annabel Gregory

NBER Working Paper No. 1661
Issued in July 1985
NBER Program(s):   DAE

It is easier to discover why people died in the past than how healthy they were during their lives. However, in both Europe and North America, much evidence survives about the health of young males from the medical examination of recruits to the armed forces. The paper discusses the possibility of generalizing from one such source, that of British volunteer recruits, to the health of the male working class. It concludes that the source is not seriously biassed and that, after some statistical correction, the data suggest a gradual improvement in the nutritional status, measured by average height, of the British working class.This finding contradicts much contemporary opinion that the British were physically deteriorating in the late nineteenth century.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w1661

Published: Roderick Floud, Kenneth Wachter and Annabel Gregory, editors. Height, health, and history: Nutritional status in the United Kingdon, 1750-1980. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990.

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