European Review of Economic History 7 (2003), 2

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European Review of Economic History 7 (2003), 2
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European Review of Economic History
United Kingdom
Barthel, Claudia


Volume 7 - Issue 02 - August 2003

An anthropometric history of early-modern France
John Komlos
pp 159-189

The height of the French male population of the Ancien Régime is estimated, on the basis of military records, to have been about 162 cm in the seventeenth century. This extremely short stature implies that ‘the crisis of the 17th century’ had an immense impact on the human organism itself. The improvement in climatic conditions at the turn of the eighteenth century had an ameliorating effect on the human organism, increasing its size by nearly 4 cms within a span of 12 years. Improved weather had a beneficial impact on agricultural conditions as well as a direct effect on biological processes. The physical stature of men increased until the birth cohorts of the 1740s, to decline thereafter, in keeping with the European pattern, although the decline of the second half of the eighteenth century was not more severe than elsewhere in Europe. France was not suffering from a prolonged period of malnutrition of unusual severity, and the threat of a Malthusian crisis was mild compared to seventeenth-century conditions. Hence, the anthropometric evidence supports the notion that the French economic malaise was not a fundamental cause of the political turmoil. To be sure, there were very large social differences in the biological standard of living, which clearly fuelled the fires of revolution. The height of the French upper classes was 7 cm above average, but that, too, was standard for contemporary Europe.

1 In collaboration with Michel Hau and Nicolas Bourguinat, University of Strasbourg.

Steps toward equality: How and why income inequality in urban Sweden changed during the period 1925–1958
Björn Gustafsson, Mats Johansson
pp 191-211

This article aims to throw light on why inequality in the distribution of income in Sweden fell from the mid-1920s to the second half of the 1950s. A new database has been created by coding tax records and other documents for the city of Göteborg. In the analysis the Gini-coefficient and its changes are decomposed by income source. The information shows that in the mid-1920s income in urban Sweden was fairly unequally distributed. The compression of the income distribution came about as real income at the lower end increased rapidly, while the real income of the most affluent decile remained more or less constant. Much of the initial decrease in income inequality was due to capital income decreasing in average size and in addition becoming less extremely concentrated at the top of the income distribution. From the mid-1930s onward households paid ever larger shares of their income as income taxes which caused income inequality to decrease.

Standardised Latin and medieval economic growth
Ulrich Blum, Leonard Dudley
pp 213-238

Traditional explanations for Western Europe's demographic growth in the High Middle Ages are unable to explain the rise in per capita income that accompanied observed population changes. Here, we examine the hypothesis that an innovation in information technology changed the optimal structure of contracts and raised the productivity of human capital. We present historical evidence for this thesis, offer a theoretical explanation based on transaction costs, and test the theory's predictions with data on urban demographic growth. We find that the information-technology hypothesis significantly increases the capacity of the neoclassical growth model to explain European economic expansion between 1000 and 1300.

Looking ahead from the past: The inter-temporal sustainability of Portuguese finances, 1854–1910
Rui Pedro Esteves
pp 239-266

The history of public finances in Portugal from the middle of the nineteenth century to World War I is distinguished by the pursuit of an ambitious programme of public investment in infrastructure, and by the negative financial consequences this elicited, culminating in the 1892 default. In this article we approach the Portuguese financial history of this period with a relatively new methodology for evaluating financial sustainability, which emphasises the inter-temporal nature of government budgeting. The results obtained allow us to quantify the distance that separated Portuguese finances from a sustainable path throughout the period. Although the generational imbalance of Portuguese finances at the time seems massive in the context of today's benchmarks, its economic and financial impact should have been more limited, given the government's relatively low weight in the economy and the favourable demographic pattern.

1 CEMPRE – Centro de Estudos Macroeconómicos e Previsâo – is supported by the Fundaçâo para a Ciência e a Tecnologia, Portugal, through the Programa Operacional Ciência, Tecnologia e Inovaçâo (POCTI) of the Quadro Comunitário de Apoio III, which is financed by FEDER and Portuguese funds.

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