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Open Access Hasty pudding versus tasty bread: regional variations in diet and nutrition during the Industrial Revolution

Using parish-level information from Sir F.M. Eden's The state of the poor (1797) we can identify typical diets for the counties of England. These diets varied considerably and afforded very different standards of nutrition. We compute a nutritional score for this diet, paying attention to the presence of vitamins, minerals and micronutrients shown to be essential for health and growth in constructing this measure. Other information in the reports allows us to relate county-level nutrition to factors in the local economy. In particular we find nutrition was positively related to the availability of common land in the area and to women's remunerated work if conducted from home. Lack of common land and little local supply of dairy products also pushed households into buying white wheaten bread rather than baking their own wholemeal loaf. Replicating some of this analysis with household-level data confirms these results. Diet also maps onto stature: male convicts to Australia were significantly taller if they originated in a county with a more nutritious diet. This verifies the important impact of nutrition on stature and demonstrates the sensitivity of height as a measure of key aspects of welfare.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: September 1, 2012

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  • Local Population Studies was first published in 1968, and since then it has focused on presenting cutting-edge research in local, population and social history. It is published twice a year online and in print by the Local Population Studies Society, with the support of the University of Oxford. For information about how to become a member of the LPSS, and for freely available back issues from 1968 to 2010, please visit
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