Proposal preview

The most dramatic period globally for the development of the human body: the 20th century

In this session, the development of the human body worldwide during the 20th century will be studied. The 20th century has not received as many anthropometric studies as earlier centuries, even though change in heights and weights were more dramatic than in any other period. Moreover, a large number of important developments affected the human body including, among others, fertility transition, improved knowledge of disease and public wealth, waves of globalization and deglobalization, and the devastation wrought by terrible wars. Civil wars during the later 20th century, for example, had profound effects on the evolution of human stature development in Africa. Another influence was the “Great Levelling” or reduction in inequality within some countries during the early 20th century followed by strongly resurgent inequality at the end of the century. Delays in the diffusion of medical and hygienic technologies, by themselves, created inequalities in health across populations in different parts of the world.
The studies in this session take advantage of the relatively good data available for many countries in the 20th century. All contributors check carefully for selectivity issues socially, institutionally and regionally. New evidence is presented for large number of countries and regions including, for example, the various parts of the British Empire, are studied, various African countries and the southern corn of the Latin America. The Asian giants are analyzed with a deep regional focus on Indonesia, India and China. All this integrates into an image of global welfare development that complements purchasing power-based approaches, and helps to understand the divergence processes that took place in some of the world regions.


  • Kris Inwood, University of Guelph,, Canada
  • Joerg Baten, Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen,, Germany

Session members

  • Matthias Blum, Queens University Belfast,
  • Johan Fourie, Stellenbosch University,
  • Tim Hatton, University of Essex,
  • Kris Inwood, University of Guelph,
  • John Komlos, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München,
  • Manuel Lorca, Universidad de Santiago de Chile,
  • Hamish Maxwell-Stewart, University of Tasmania,
  • Les Oxley, University of Waikato,
  • Evan Roberts, University of Minnesota,
  • Daniel Schwekendiek, Sungkyunkwang University,
  • Richard Steckel, Ohio State University,

Proposed discussant(s)

  • Bernard Harris, University of Strathclyde,
  • Kris Inwood, University of Guelph,
  • Joerg Baten, Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen,