Harris, Bernard, Floud, R., Fogel, R.W. and Hong, S.C.
Diet, health and work intensity in England and Wales, 1800-1914. Cambridge, US, National Bureau of Economic Research
(NBER Working Papers Series, 15875).
Full text not available from this repository.
In their different ways, both Thomas Malthus and Thomas McKeown raised fundamental questions
about the relationship between food supply and the decline of mortality. Malthus argued that food
supply was the most important constraint on population growth and McKeown claimed that an improvement
in the population’s capacity to feed itself was the most important single cause of mortality change.
This paper explores the implications of these arguments for our understanding of the causes of mortality
decline in Britain between 1700 and 1914. It presents new estimates showing changes in the calorific
value and composition of British diets in 1700, 1750, 1800 and 1850 and compares these with the
official estimates published by the Royal Society in 1917. It then considers the implications of these
data in the light of new arguments about the relationship between diet, work intensity and economic
growth. However the paper is not solely concerned with the analysis of food-related issues. It also
considers the ways in which sanitary reform may have contributed to the decline of mortality at the
end of the nineteenth century and it pays particular attention to the impact of cohort-specific factors
on the pattern of mortality decline from the mid-nineteenth century onwards.
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