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Call for papers, ESSHC, Valencia, 2016.

MàJ : 27/01/2016


Session proposition: Assessments of food intake, food intake and height at the local, regional and national level.


Laurent Herment. CNRS-CRH. EHESS, Paris. UMR 8558.

Laurent Heyberger. IRTES-RECITS. UTBM, Belfort.


As demonstrated by several recent studies in rural history, European agricultural gross product increases during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries (Federico 2005), even if the dating and extent of this growth remain uncertain. Despite this dramatic increase, the living standards of West-Europeans seem to decrease -sometimes very sharply- until the first half of the nineteenth century. This phenomenon is the object of a vivid debate among historians and economists (Lindert and Williamson 1983, Mokyr 1988, Clark 2001, Allen and Weisdorf 2011 among others). The issue of the living standards is also becoming an element of the debate concerning the great divergence.

Beyond the traditional indexes used to assess the evolution of living standards, the height of men and more rarely women constitute for almost thirty years a major issue (Floud et alii 1990, Komlos 1989, Baten 1999, Morkyr and O’Grada 1996, among others). It can be admitted that living standards during the eighteenth and a large part of the nineteenth centuries were correlated with height. But height is determined by several factors: caloric intake, composition of food intake during infancy, basket food, disease environment, physical exertion during childhood and adolescence etc. (Gazeley and Horel 2013, Baten and Blum 2014). If these principles are now firmly established, historians and economists do not know very precisely the amount (or the value) of food intake and its composition for the eighteenth and even for the nineteenth centuries.

This session would address two types of questions. The first one is related to the food intake in rural areas inside and outside Europe. Very little is known about this specific topic, especially for the poorest classes of the society. Papers emphasizing links between changes in food intake and height at the local, regional or national level will be welcome, especially those controlling the reliability of food intake sources thanks to anthropometric indicators (Svedberg, 2002, Federico, 2003, Mironov & A’Hearn, 2008, Heyberger, 2009).

The second question ensues from the first. If archival material cannot be used to assess directly food intake (or food basket for a household), other indirect assessments can be imagined, such as econometric estimation of the elasticity of staple food, for instance. Methods which could induce a better understanding of food intake of rural population and poorest people will be very welcome.


Abstract of 300 words max are welcome to the following mail address before the 20 April 2015:


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