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Brass measuring instruments, with callipers and slides, France, 1850-1900

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A calliper and nine sliding scales are inside this leather-covered case. It was made in France and is marked Brevette SGDG. It was possibly for anthropometric use. Anthropometry measures individual bodies to compare populations. It was used in the late 1800s to explain human evolution and justify the colonisation of countries populated by ‘less evolved’ peoples.

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Glossary: anthropometry

The measuring of body parts so that comparisons can be made. The aim is to measure normal and abnormal development. In the past, it has also been used in attempts to measure racial difference.

Glossary: anthropometrical measure

The practise of measuring different parts of the human body in the hope of using them to determine personal characteristics. The practise is no longer accepted as scientific.