Friday, April 09, 2004

More about height

Last week I linked to a New Yorker article dealing with differences in height between populations. Now here's an interview with the writer, Burkhard Bilger. An excerpt:
Does that mean that people in 800 A.D. lived better than people in 1700?

On average, it looks like Northern Europeans did live better in 800 than in 1700. They lived in smaller communities, so they were less prone to disease. They often ate better, because they were growing or hunting their own food. Early cities in the seventeen-hundreds, on the other hand, were crowded, with open sewers, and food often spoiled or was less than fresh.

One thing I've always wondered: if these small, primitive communities were eating so well and had so little disease, how did they keep their populations down? Did they practice some sort of birth control or infanticide? Or were their young just more likely to die young in accidents or violence? How and why did the population of Europe explode starting in the 1700s if the average person was so much less well off then?

I've been wondering these things for years...does anybody out there have any insight?


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