Increases in human stature are a key indicator of improvements in the average health of populations. In this article I present and analyse a new data set for the average height of adult male birth cohorts, from the mid-nineteenth century to 1980, in 15 European countries. In little more than a century average height increased by 11 cm-representing a dramatic improvement in health. Interestingly, there was some acceleration in the period spanning the two world wars and the Great Depression. The evidence suggests that the most important proximate source of increasing height was the improving disease environment as reflected by the fall in infant mortality. Rising income and education and falling family size had more modest effects. Improvements in health care are hard to identify, and the effects of welfare state spending seem to have been small.