How bad were British prison hulks in the Napolenic wars? Evidence from captured Danish and Norwegian seamen

Timothy Leunig, Jelle van Lottum, Bo Poulsen

Research output: Working paperResearch

Abstract

This article uses a novel data source to test whether British Napoleonic prison hulks were as bad as many claim, and whether they were perceived to be bad by seamen who risked ending up in them. We find that they were not so bad: death rates of imprisoned Danish and Norwegian seamen were low. We test the perceptions of seamen by seeing whether those with the most options in the labour market (tall people) continued to choose to go to sea after war was declared. We find that they do. We therefore conclude that Danish and Norwegian seamen were not scared of the British Navy or British prison hulks, and that they were right not to be scared. We also provide the first modern estimates for the change in heights over time in Denmark and Norway, finding no change in living standards for those born from 1720 to 1800.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages34
Publication statusPublished - 28 Jan 2016
SeriesEconomic History Working Papers
Number232

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