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How Many Calories? Food Availability in England and Wales in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries

Research in Economic History

ISBN: 978-1-78441-782-6, eISBN: 978-1-78441-781-9

Publication date: 22 April 2015


In The Changing Body (Cambridge University Press and NBER, 2011), we 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 1909/1913. We now seek to correct an error in our original figures and to compare the corrected figures with those published by a range of other authors. We also include new estimates showing the calorific value of meat and grains imported from Ireland. Disagreements with other authors reflect differences 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. We consider recent attempts to achieve a compromise between these estimates and challenge claims that there was a dramatic reduction in either food availability or the average height of birth cohorts in the late-eighteenth century.




An earlier version of this paper was published as an NBER Working Paper (Working Paper 20177). Earlier versions were also presented at conferences on ‘Global Inequality and Poverty since 1800: Evidence, Analysis and Data Sources’, held at the University of Sussex on 27–28 September 2013; and ‘The Health Transition: A Conference in Memory of Robert Fogel’, held at the University of Chicago on 4 October 2013. We would also like to acknowledge Stanley Engerman, David Meredith, Cormac Ó Gráda and Deborah Oxley for their helpful comments on previous versions, and Steve Broadberry for permission to cite unpublished work from his forthcoming coauthored book (Broadberry et al., 2015).


Harris, B., Floud, R. and Hong, S.C. (2015), "How Many Calories? Food Availability in England and Wales in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries", Research in Economic History (Research in Economic History, Vol. 31), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 111-191.



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