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When and why did the Portuguese become the shortest Europeans? In order to find the answer to this question, we trace the trend in Portuguese living standards from the 1720s until recent times. We find that during the early nineteenth century average height in Portugal did not differ significantly from average height in most other European countries, but that when, around 1850, European anthropometric values began to climb sharply, Portugal’s did not. In a panel analysis of 12 countries, we find that delay in human-capital formation was the chief factor hindering any improvement in the biological standard of living in Portugal.