September 29, 2003

1460 Calories per Person per Day

From Trevon Logan's economic history seminar:

"1460 calories per person per day in 1888, in Britain?'


"But this is Britain's late-nineteenth century Labor Aristocracy."

"Yes. They're relatively high wage workers in British industry. That's certainly true. So?"

"But these are the people whom Eric Hobsbawm writes attained 'trade-union consciousness'. According to him, they used their market power to elevate their wages so much that they became satisfied with their place in the economy, and lost their 'natural' attachment to revolutionary socialism."

"They were the best-off working class in the world in the late-nineteenth century--save, of course, for the American, Canadian, and Australasian working classes."

"But 1460 calories a day? You can wean an entire segment of the working class off of revolutionary socialism and collective action over to self-satisfied attachment to the system on a mere 1460 calories a day?"

"That's what the data show. 1460 calories a day."

"That is per person, not per adult-equivalent."

"Even so..."

Posted by DeLong at September 29, 2003 05:50 PM | TrackBack


If only the Germans would have guarenteed Lenin a hot meal!

Posted by: Rob on September 29, 2003 06:33 PM

They probably forgot to include calories from alcohol.

Posted by: Dick Durata on September 29, 2003 07:22 PM

Not just calories from alcohol, some brewing techniquies pump quite a lot of the B-vitamins and other nutrients into beer as well.

Posted by: Steven Rogers on September 29, 2003 07:30 PM

There ought to be some sort of "Complacency Index." Americans tend to be fat and happy regardless of what's going on with their real wages as long as they can get work and pay bills. But I wonder at what level Americans would get uppity? (I'd rather not find out.) Actually, there were quite a few angry Americans setting fire to the ghettos in the 60s, and I'm guessing that they were getting more than 1400 calories a day...

Posted by: Saam Barrager on September 29, 2003 08:17 PM

Today's equivilant-14 hrs "Surviver Amazon" a day-

Posted by: harv on September 29, 2003 08:32 PM

Either people were smaller then (and they were) or there's an error. What do we need now? 2200? 2400? Less than we're getting now, unfortunately (and by "we", I mean Americans, paleface).

Posted by: bad Jim on September 30, 2003 12:36 AM

Further to bad Jim's point, they were smaller because they ate less, which is very likely an evolutionary accomodation to a low calorie early childhood. I believe Brad noted (or someone else commented) here not long ago that Turkish soldiers during WWI were quite struck by the difference in stature between British soldiers and their Commonwealth counterparts. They come from pretty nearly identical genetic stock, so diet was the likely culprit. The notion that Assies are physically large is probably a holdover from early in the last century.

Posted by: K Harris on September 30, 2003 05:48 AM

in MacMillan's history of the Paris peace conference (1919), she remarks on the relatively large size of Montenegrins -- then and perhaps now bigger than Serbs, Croats, Albanians and, come to think of it, Germans. True? Why?

Posted by: buce on September 30, 2003 09:35 AM


Briefly, popular living standards in Europe peaked just after the Black Death, and kept going down until the industrial working class started getting the benefits of the Industrial Revolution.

High-land, low-people herding areas like the mountains of Montenegro tend to be sheepherders and thus have a higher-protein diet from sheep than the landless agricultural and industrial labourers that make up the population of more advanced and populated societies.

Ian Whitchurch

Posted by: Ian Whitchurch on September 30, 2003 06:43 PM
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