A Tale Of Tallness

Wednesday 1 May 2024, 12:30 pm
PhD candidate
MA B. Quanjer
prof. dr. J. Kok, prof. dr. A.A.P.O. Janssens
dr. mr. P.G. Tassenaar (Rijksuniversiteit Groningen)
Faculty of Arts

Body height provides insights into the standard of living during the first two decades of life. Malnutrition, disease, and hard labour can inhibit people's growth. In particular comparing the average length of groups allows us to distil these factors, because genetic transmission at the individual level is then eliminated.
This PhD thesis examines which factors within the household influence linear growth, while taking a critical look at how best to approach factors such as disease and malnutrition. For example, given the limited resources of a Dutch household in the nineteenth century, growing up among many siblings would have meant smaller portions. However, this research study takes into account the fact that older children contribute to household finances, allowing for a more nuanced analysis.
The study shows that there was a fairly constant socio-economic gradient in heights. Furthermore, we observed that maternal mortality had a negative effect on height in early childhood due to loss of care. Also, height correlates more strongly with the chances of survival of children than of infants. These and other findings can tell us how the Dutch became richer and healthier from 1850 onwards.

Björn Quanjer (b. 1991) studied History at the University of Groningen. His Master's thesis on the history of cycling in Groningen won the Groningen thesis prize. In 2017, he began his PhD research at Radboud University Nijmegen. Since 2022, he has been working at the Historical Database for Suriname and the Caribbean on a population reconstruction from 1830 to 1950.