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Stature in nineteenth-century Rio de Janeiro: preliminary evidence from prison records*

  • Zephyr Frank (a1)
Abstract

Based on anthropometric data and descriptive information contained in the records of the Rio de Janeiro city jail (Casa de Detenção), this paper explores patterns of change in living conditions during the nineteenth century. The research shows that there were significant changes in the heights of prisoners over time and according to race and nationality.Most importantly, heights of Brazilian-born slaves declined for the cohorts born in the 1830s through the beginning of the 1860s. In addition, differences in heights for natives of the city of Rio de Janeiro and for other Brazilian prisoners provide evidence of an «urban penalty» in stature during this period. Poor nutrition, the high cost of food and shelter, the movement of some slaves out of the city and into plantation work after 1850, and urban epidemics are assessed as the factors influencing trends in prisoner heights. Throughout the analysis, height trends discovered in Rio de Janeiro are placed in international comparative perspective.

Esta análise sobre condições de vida no Rio de Janeiro, no século XIX, baseia-se em dados antropométricos e descritivos obtidos na documentação da Casa de Detenção. A pesquisa mostra que houve mudanças significativas nas alturas de presos ao longo do tempo e em função de sua cor e nacionalidade. Principalmente, houve um declínio na estatura de escravos, a partir dos nascidos nos anos 1830 e continuando ate os anos 1860, onde se interrompe o presente estudo. As diferenças entre escravos e homens livres por um lado, e entre brasileiros nativos no Rio de Janeiro e brasileiros nascidos fora da capital por outro lado, mostram que, além do declínio percebido na estatura dos escravos, houve também uma «penalidade urbana» na estatura, indicada pelo fato de serem os presos nascidos no Rio de Janeiro menos altos do que os outros presos brasileiros. Falta de alimentação, aumento no custo de vida em geral, transferência de escravos para fora da cidade depois de 1850, e epidemias urbanas eram fatores que influíam nas alturas dos presos.

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Revista de Historia Economica - Journal of Iberian and Latin American Economic History
  • ISSN: 0212-6109
  • EISSN: 2041-3335
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