i think the authors offer some good points, especially this: The Victorians died rapidly of infection and/or trauma, whereas we die slowly of degenerative disease.
however, they seem to wear rose-colored glasses about what was really going on the u.k. during their timeline:
the irish potato famine began in 1847, killing at least 1 million irish and pressing at least that many to emigrate.
during the 1860s and 70s, british beer consumption was over 50 gallons per capita, and that beer was MUCH stronger than the modern brew -- possibly 50% stronger. booze was sold off street carts and in the many, many alehouses. urban laborers drank more than the farmers, men more than women and young men more than old. during the latter part of that century, the working poor spent more on hooch than on bread or meat.
in scotland, where the drinking was harder, whisky was graded by the devastation it caused: sudden death, fighting stuff, over-the-wall, pick-me-up, knock-me-down. sudden death was nearly pure alcohol. one mid-century observer thought most navvies (canal diggers or track-layers) averaged thirty gallons of booze a week. Another thought a thousand pounds was spent on drink for every finished mile of track: twenty-five thousand pounds, perhaps, in today's money. even with the hyperbole of a temperance zealot that was an ocean booze.
it was not uncommon for children to consume alcohol, especially since the water wasn't always potable and milk possibly tainted:
The Silk-Buckingham Committees of 1834 reported that in 14
public houses in London, 18,391 children entered one of these during one week. Twenty
years later, a select committee reported of public houses in Manchester “on a single Sunday
in 1854 there were 212,243 visits to drink shops and 22,132 of these were made by
children, some of whom went to drink on their own account - some to fetch drink”.
Hope of the Race -The Centenary History of the Band of Hope).
while citrus had been traveling to britain in ships for many decades, (easily transportable because of its thick rinds), and lemons were easily had, fresh imported fruit was something only the very wealthy could afford.
poor boys and girls did not attend school, since their parents couldn't afford the fees.
even by the authors' account, it was less than a generation before these brits supposedly went from being strong and tall to being too poorly nourished to serve in the army.
Last edited by noodletoy; 03-22-2013 at 08:31 AM.
As I ate the oysters with their strong taste of the sea and their faint metallic taste that the cold white wine washed away, leaving only the sea taste and the succulent texture, and as I drank their cold liquid from each shell and washed it down with the crisp taste of the wine, I lost the empty feeling and began to be happy and to make plans.
– Ernest Hemingway