It is a "design trend" driven by several things boiling down to $$$$
In general ceiling heights in the 1800's were pretty high across the globe, 3.5 meters in Europe was not uncommon. Remember that "nice" single family homes back then were not common among the peasants, the upper class people wanted high ceilings because of several reasons - the soaring "look", a place for the smoke (produced by lanterns, gaslights, etc.) to rise to, (as well as pipe and cigar smoke) much better cooling (gave a place for the heat to rise), the perception of "healthier rooms" as well as just the plain old "I'm richer than you are, nannyer nannyer nannyer" notion. The higher the building the more materials and more expensive it looked.
In the US this trend came across and by the time the 1900's came along 9 feet and higher ceiling heights were common, as well when electrification came along it gave space for a ceiling fan. During that era fuel was cheap so people would have stoves and such and burn entire forests up heating 3 rooms.
Later on when they started installing gas furnaces heating became expensive so people put in drop ceilings to push the heat down closer to the people. During the 70's and 80's the standard ceiling height in new construction became 8 feet high as a way of saving money on heating. Your drop ceilings in older homes are almost certainly tacked on after the fact (and I would guess they look terrible, eh?) for this reason, saving heating costs. Just beware since a drop ceiling could have been used to conceal an original asbestos-impregnated "popcorn" or "acoustical tile" ceiling.
Nowadays the "standard" in new construction is 9 feet high ceilings, and "tray" ceilings seem popular now (I think they are stupid dust catchers but what do I know) The trend once more is back to the "I'm richer than you are, ha ha ha ha" notion I think - because the price of single family detached homes is so high we are really returning back to the way things used to be in Europe where only the wealthy and upper middle class owned single family detached homes, and the lower middle class and poor are crammed into rack, stack & pack apartments. (and it is a sad and dangerous trend which is going to have a serious negative effect on the economy in the future)
Throughout history one of the biggest marks of wealth has been space - if you are poor and you want to look rich - buy a "spread" with a few acres out in the country - everyone will immediately assume you are worth at least $1M because so few people understand land pricing in the country. The illusion of wealth is created by ceiling height so if you want to rip down the drop ceiling and go back to the original real ceiling, more power to you!