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Comment on ‘Seat of Death and Terror’1

Tim Leunig () and Hans-Joachim Voth

Economic History Review, 2006, vol. 59, issue 3, 607-616

Abstract: Oxley finds that smallpox consistently reduced heights, but that the fall was not statistically significant outside London or for juvenile Londoners. We demonstrate that inappropriate subdivision of the data into small samples explains the lack of significance she obtains. Further analysis of Oxley’s data shows that smallpox was a statistically significant cause of stunting, and that there were no differences in the effect by area. Juveniles exhibit greater stunting than adults, leading us to conclude that smallpox was not a proxy for overcrowding. That smallpox reduced height is important for anthropometric history: heights capture the effect of a truly awful disease.

Date: 2006
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