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The short and the tall: comparing stature and socioeconomic status for male prison and military populations


Inwood, K and Kippen, R and Maxwell-Stewart, H and Steckel, R, The short and the tall: comparing stature and socioeconomic status for male prison and military populations, Social Science History, 44, (3) pp. 463-483. ISSN 0145-5532 (2020) [Refereed Article]

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Copyright 2020 the authors

DOI: doi:10.1017/ssh.2020.14


Over the last four decades, historians and social scientists have become increasingly interested in the way in which information about stature might be used to explore the impact of environmental factors on the physical growth and well-being of past populations. A particular problem encountered by many researchers is that height data is only available for selected populations, typically military recruits or those admitted to correctional institutions. Evidence from Australian military and prison records demonstrate how the two social groups, soldiers and prisoners, differed from each other and from the wider population in terms of age, birthplace, occupation, and stature. Different patterns of observable characteristics conceal additional differences in intergenerational experience. We trace male prisoners and soldiers born between 1870 and 1899 in Tasmania to their birth records and thence to the marriages of their parents. This allows us to contrast social and occupational change from father to son for both prisoners and soldiers. We conclude that evidence arising from these institutionalized populations can be used to estimate wider societal trends, although caution needs to be exercised.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:history of crime, physical stature, socioeconomic status
Research Division:History, Heritage and Archaeology
Research Group:Historical studies
Research Field:Australian history
Objective Division:Culture and Society
Objective Group:Understanding past societies
Objective Field:Understanding Australia's past
UTAS Author:Maxwell-Stewart, H (Professor Hamish Maxwell-Stewart)
ID Code:141504
Year Published:2020
Web of Science® Times Cited:1
Deposited By:Office of the School of Humanities
Deposited On:2020-10-26
Last Modified:2021-04-29

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