Biometrics

Biomedical sciences intersect with history in the field of anthropometrics. Adult height provides a measure of the conditions that influence physical well-being of a population during childhood while height and weight measurements can be used to explore the recent nutritional experience of a population. This project will use biometric measurements for 42,000 male and 24,000 female convicts and prisoners born in London to examine a) changes in the nutritional status overtime, b) the impact of enforced removal to the Antipodes on juvenile growth and c) the recent nutritional history of prisoners on entry and exit from gaol.

A primary goal will be to map nutritional change in London over the course of the late 18th and 19th centuries and relate this to prosecution rates, urban density and the spread of sanitation measures. As the project will accumulate multiple measurements for individuals as they passed between institutions or were arrested multiple times it will also be able to explore changes in height and body mass index over time. Building on a recent finding that transported convicts who accumulated multiple convictions in the colonies were shorter than those who did not reoffend, we will explore the extent to which this pattern was prevalent amongst juvenile as well as adult prisoners. This will enable an assessment of the extent to which measures of childhood deprivation can be used as predicators of future offending. We will also examine the manner in which straightened economic circumstances impacted differently upon men and women enabling us to map the moral economy of the intra-household distribution of food across London.