Food for Thought: Comparing Estimates of Food Availability in England and Wales, 1700-1914
54 Pages Posted: 2 Jun 2014 Last revised: 20 Aug 2021
Date Written: May 2014
In The Changing Body (Cambridge University Press and NBER, 2011), the authors presented a series of estimates showing the number of calories available for human consumption in England and Wales at various points in time between 1700 and 1909/13. The current paper corrects an error in those figures but also compares the estimates of The Changing Body with those published by a range of other authors. The differences reflect disagreements over a number of issues, including the amount of land under cultivation, the extraction and wastage rates for cereals and pulses and the number of animals supplying meat and dairy products. The paper considers recent attempts to achieve a compromise between these estimates and challenges claims that there was a dramatic reduction in either food availability or the average height of birth cohorts in the late-eighteenth century.
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