Tall histories: height and Georgian masculinities

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticlepeer-review


Height is rarely taken seriously by historians. Demographic and archaeological studies tend to explore height as a symptom of health and nutrition, rather than in its own right, and cultural studies of the human body barely study it at all. Its absence from the history of gender is surprising, given that it has historically been discussed within a highly gendered moral language. This article therefore explores height through the lens of masculinity and focuses on the eighteenth century, when height took on a peculiar cultural significance in Britain. On the one hand, height could be associated with social status, political power and ‘polite’ refinement. On the other, it could connote ambition, militarism, despotism, foreignness and even castration. The article explores these themes through a case study of John Montagu, Earl of Sandwich, who was famously tall and was frequently caricatured as such. As well as exploring representations of the body, the article also considers corporeal experiences and biometric realities of male height. It argues that histories of masculinity should study both representations of gender and their physical manifestations.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)79-101
Number of pages22
JournalTransactions of the Royal Historical Society
Early online date29 Sept 2016
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 29 Sept 2016


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