This article is designed to return to “basics” by interrogating the estimates and proxies utilized by participants in the Great Divergence debate by placing them in a “nutritional perspective” to ascertain whether and to what extent there was a common trajectory between the Yangtze Delta and England after 1600 for (1) a sustainable intake of food and (2) support of an increasingly urbanized, commercialized, and industrialized economy. Our survey, critique, and recalibration of the data produced for this particular and altogether more promising line of historical enquiry rejects inference-derived statistical evidence that continues to be widely cited to support the revisionist claims of the California School. Recalibrated and tabulated here into kilocalories for purposes of reciprocal comparisons, that evidence suggests that although the population of early modern Jiangnan enjoyed “nutritional security,” its standard of living was declining and falling to levels below standards afflicting England’s laboring poor.


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pp. 233-267
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