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The biological standard of living on the decline: Episodes from Germany during early industrialisation

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  20 April 2006

ULF CHRISTIAN EWERT
Affiliation:
Philosophische Fakultät, Fachgebiet Geschichte, Technische Universität Chemnitz, D-09107 Chemnitz, Germany
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Abstract

Having been separated into numerous autonomous states, nineteenth-century Germany was the very model of a regionally diversified process of industrialisation. How the nutritional status of Germans developed during early industrialisation is analysed in this article. With newly available data, average height for birth cohorts 1770–1849 is established for the two German states of Saxony and Wuerttemberg. The development of these heights is compared to the – so far – sole German height trend of this epoch, the average height of Bavarians. The results suggest that, starting with the birth cohorts of the Napoleonic era, the biological standard of living was on the decline across all the three German territories under consideration. An explorative interpretation of the height trend in Saxony reveals that during the beginning of industrialisation a mixture of relatively bad climatic conditions, rising prices of foodstuffs and a persistently falling real income can be held responsible for the rapid and substantial decline of the nutritional status in this pioneering state of German industrialisation. Finally, by the middle of the nineteenth century the Saxons found themselves trapped in a classical type of nutritional crisis.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Cambridge University Press 2006

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