• Richard H. SteckelEmail author
Living reference work entry


This chapter describes the rise, evolution, and durability of the new anthropometric history, an interdisciplinary approach to assessing biological aspects of the standard of living in the past using measurements such as height and weight, which are abundant from numerous historical sources such as military muster rolls, identification systems, slave manifests, and prison records. By comparing anthropometric data with traditional sources used by economists, such as wages, income, and occupation, scholars have found intriguing similarities and differences in these approaches to assessing the standard of living or human welfare broadly defined. The chapter provides a brief history of anthropometric measures as used by anthropologists and human biologists, and gives an overview of the methodology that is useful for interpreting anthropometric data used by social scientists. Much of the discussion considers applications of anthropometric evidence to topics such as slavery, inequality, industrialization, mortality, colonization, and economic development. It concludes with notes on possible pitfalls of using anthropometric data that are important to practitioners in the area and with identification of research frontiers.


Health Height Weight Living standards 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Ohio State UniversityColumbusUSA

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