Life at the bottom. Living standards and heights in Flanders, 1780-1900

Start - End 
2013 - 2017 (ongoing)
Department of History
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According to historical anthropometry, average height is one of the best measures to study well-being of a society. Since height is mainly an indicator of social and economic conditions during childhood and adolescence, it can be used to assess historical (in)equalities. In this project I investigate the well-being of the lower classes by examining the heights of prisoners during the last quarter of the eighteenth century and the nineteenth century. A great advantage of prison records is that they provide information on the living conditions of population groups which until now have largely been neglected. The goal of this project is to determine and to compare the impact of the economic developments such as industrialisation and urbanisation on different subgroups (rural- born vs. urban-born, women vs. men etc.) through time. In order to assess how their heights varied, a database of approximately 30,000 inmates is compiled and analysed through a number of descriptive and more advanced statistical techniques. The project emphasizes that well-being includes more than material welfare and aims to provide a nuanced view of the quality of life in Flanders during the long nineteenth century.



Phd Student(s)