British Agricultural Revolution

The British Agricultural Revolution, or Second Agricultural Revolution, was the unprecedented increase in agricultural production in Britain due to increases in labour and land productivity between the mid-17th and late 19th centuries. Agricultural output grew faster than the population over the century to 1770, and thereafter productivity remained among the highest in the world. This increase in the food supply contributed to the rapid growth of population in England and Wales, from 5.5 million in 1700 to over 9 million by 1801, though domestic production gave way increasingly to food imports in the nineteenth century as the population more than tripled to over 32 million.[1] The rise in productivity accelerated the decline of the agricultural share of the labour force, adding to the urban workforce on which industrialization depended: the Agricultural Revolution has therefore been cited as a cause of the Industrial Revolution.

However, historians continue to dispute when exactly such a "revolution" took place and of what it consisted. Rather than a single event, G. E. Mingay states that there were a "profusion of agricultural revolutions, one for two centuries before 1750, another emphasising the century after 1650, a third for the period 1750-1880, and a fourth for the middle decades of the nineteenth century".[2] This has led more recent historians to argue that any general statements about "the Agricultural Revolution" are difficult to sustain.[3][4]

One important change in farming methods was the move in crop rotation to turnips and clover in place of fallow. Turnips can be grown in winter and are deep-rooted, allowing them to gather minerals unavailable to shallow-rooted crops. Clover fixes nitrogen from the atmosphere into a form of fertiliser. This permitted the intensive arable cultivation of light soils on enclosed farms and provided fodder to support increased livestock numbers whose manure added further to soil fertility.

Major developments and innovations

The British Agricultural Revolution was the result of the complex interaction of social, economic and farming technological changes. Major developments and innovations include:[5]

  • Norfolk four-course crop rotation: Fodder crops, particularly turnips and clover, replaced leaving the land fallow.[6]
  • The Dutch improved the Chinese plough so that it could be pulled with fewer oxen or horses.
  • Enclosure: the removal of common rights to establish exclusive ownership of land
  • Development of a national market free of tariffs, tolls and customs barriers
  • Transportation infrastructures, such as improved roads, canals, and later, railways
  • Land conversion, land drains and reclamation
  • Increase in farm size
  • Selective breeding

Crop rotation

Crop Yield net of Seed

Year Wheat Rye Barley Oats Peas
Growth rate
1250–1299 8.71 10.71 10.25 7.24 6.03 −0.27
1300–1349 8.24 10.36 9.46 6.60 6.14 −0.032
1350–1399 7.46 9.21 9.74 7.49 5.86 0.61
1400–1449 5.89 10.46 8.44 6.55 5.42 0.08
1450–1499 6.48 13.96 8.56 5.95 4.49 0.48
1550–1599 7.88 9.21 8.40 7.87 7.62 −0.16
1600–1649 10.45 16.28 11.16 10.97 8.62 −0.11
1650–1699 11.36 14.19 12.48 10.82 8.39 0.64
1700–1749 13.79 14.82 15.08 12.27 10.23 0.70
1750–1799 17.26 17.87 21.88 20.90 14.19 0.37
1800–1849 23.16 19.52 25.90 28.37 17.85 0.63
1850–1899 26.69 26.18 23.82 31.36 16.30

Yields have had the seed used to plant the crop subtracted to give net yields.
Average seed sown is estimated at:

  • Wheat 2.5 bu/acre;
  • Rye 2.5 bu/acre;
  • Barley 3.5–4.30 bu/acre;
  • Oats 2.5–4.0 bu/acre;
  • Peas & beans 2.50–3.0 bu/acre.

$ Average annual growth rate of agricultural output is per agricultural worker.
Other authors offer different estimates.

One of the most important innovations of the British Agricultural Revolution was the development of the Norfolk four-course rotation, which greatly increased crop and livestock yields by improving soil fertility and reducing fallow.[5]

Crop rotation is the practice of growing a series of dissimilar types of crops in the same area in sequential seasons to help restore plant nutrients and mitigate the build-up of pathogens and pests that often occurs when one plant species is continuously cropped. Rotation can also improve soil structure and fertility by alternating deep-rooted and shallow-rooted plants. Turnip roots, for example, can recover nutrients from deep under the soil. The Norfolk System, as it is now known, rotates crops so that different crops are planted with the result that different kinds and quantities of nutrients are taken from the soil as the plants grow. An important feature of the Norfolk four-field system was that it used labour at times when demand was not at peak levels.[8]

Planting cover crops such as turnips and clover was not permitted under the common field system because they interfered with access to the fields. Besides, other people's livestock could graze the turnips.[9]

During the Middle Ages, the open field system had initially used a two-field crop rotation system where one field was left fallow or turned into pasture for a time to try to recover some of its plant nutrients. Later they employed a three-year, three field crop rotation routine, with a different crop in each of two fields, e.g. oats, rye, wheat, and barley with the second field growing a legume like peas or beans, and the third field fallow. Normally from 10% to 30% of the arable land in a three crop rotation system is fallow. Each field was rotated into a different crop nearly every year. Over the following two centuries, the regular planting of legumes such as peas and beans in the fields that were previously fallow slowly restored the fertility of some croplands. The planting of legumes helped to increase plant growth in the empty field due to the ability of the bacteria on legume roots to fix nitrogen (N2) from the air into the soil in a form that plants could use. Other crops that were occasionally grown were flax and members of the mustard family.

Convertible husbandry was the alternation of a field between pasture and grain. Because nitrogen builds up slowly over time in pasture, ploughing up pasture and planting grains resulted in high yields for a few years. A big disadvantage of convertible husbandry was the hard work in breaking up pastures and difficulty in establishing them. The significance of convertible husbandry is that it introduced pasture into the rotation.[10]

The farmers in Flanders (in parts of France and current day Belgium) discovered a still more effective four-field crop rotation system, using turnips and clover (a legume) as forage crops to replace the three-year crop rotation fallow year.

The four-field rotation system allowed farmers to restore soil fertility and restore some of the plant nutrients removed with the crops. Turnips first show up in the probate records in England as early as 1638 but were not widely used till about 1750. Fallow land was about 20% of the arable area in England in 1700 before turnips and clover were extensively grown in the 1830's. Guano and nitrates from South America were introduced in the mid-19th century and fallow steadily declined to reach only about 4% in 1900.[11] Ideally, wheat, barley, turnips and clover would be planted in that order in each field in successive years. The turnips helped keep the weeds down and were an excellent forage crop—ruminant animals could eat their tops and roots through a large part of the summer and winters. There was no need to let the soil lie fallow as clover would re-add nitrates (nitrogen-containing salts) back to the soil. The clover made excellent pasture and hay fields as well as green manure when it was ploughed under after one or two years. The addition of clover and turnips allowed more animals to be kept through the winter, which in turn produced more milk, cheese, meat and manure, which maintained soil fertility. This maintains a good amount of crops produced.

The mix of crops also changed: the area under wheat rose by 1870 to 3.5 million acres (1.4m ha), barley to 2.25m acres (0.9m ha) and oats less dramatically to 2.75m acres (1.1m ha), while rye dwindled to 60,000 acres (25,000 ha), less than a tenth of its late medieval peak. Grain yields benefited from new and better seed alongside improved rotation and fertility: wheat yields increased by a quarter in the 18th century[12] and nearly half in the 19th, averaging 30 bushels per acre (2,080 kg/ha) by the 1890s.

The Dutch and Rotherham swing (wheel-less) plough

The Dutch acquired the iron-tipped, curved mouldboard, adjustable depth plough from the Chinese in the early 17th century. It had the advantage of being able to be pulled by one or two oxen compared to the six or eight needed by the heavy wheeled northern European plough. The Dutch plough was brought to Britain by Dutch contractors who were hired to drain East Anglian fens and Somerset moors. The plough was extremely successful on wet, boggy soil, but was soon used on ordinary land.[13][14]

British improvements included Joseph Foljambe's cast iron plough (patented 1730), which combined an earlier Dutch design with a number of innovations. Its fittings and coulter were made of iron and the mouldboard and share were covered with an iron plate, making it easier to pull and more controllable than previous ploughs. By the 1760s Foljambe was making large numbers of these ploughs in a factory outside of Rotherham, England, using standard patterns with interchangeable parts. The plough was easy for a blacksmith to make, but by the end of the 18th century it was being made in rural foundries.[14][15][16] By 1770 it was the cheapest and best plough available. It spread to Scotland, America, and France.[14]


Plan mediaeval manor
Conjectural map of a mediaeval English manor. The part allocated to "common pasture" is shown in the north-east section, shaded green.

In Europe, agriculture was feudal from the Middle Ages. In the traditional open field system, many subsistence farmers cropped strips of land in large fields held in common and divided the produce. They typically worked under the auspices of the aristocracy or the Catholic Church, who owned much of the land.

As early as the 12th century, some fields in England tilled under the open field system were enclosed into individually owned fields. The Black Death from 1348 onward accelerated the break-up of the feudal system in England.[17] Many farms were bought by yeomen who enclosed their property and improved their use of the land. More secure control of the land allowed the owners to make innovations that improved their yields. Other husbandmen rented property they "share cropped" with the land owners. Many of these enclosures were accomplished by acts of Parliament in the 16th and 17th centuries.

The process of enclosing property accelerated in the 15th and 16th centuries. The more productive enclosed farms meant that fewer farmers were needed to work the same land, leaving many villagers without land and grazing rights. Many of them moved to the cities in search of work in the emerging factories of the Industrial Revolution. Others settled in the English colonies. English Poor Laws were enacted to help these newly poor.

Some practices of enclosure were denounced by the Church, and legislation was drawn up against it; but the large, enclosed fields were needed for the gains in agricultural productivity from the 16th to 18th centuries. This controversy led to a series of government acts, culminating in the General Enclosure Act of 1801 which sanctioned large-scale land reform.

The process of enclosure was largely complete by the end of the 18th century.

Development of a national market

Regional markets were widespread by 1500 with about 800 locations in Britain. The most important development between the 16th century and the mid-19th century was the development of private marketing. By the 19th century, marketing was nationwide and the vast majority of agricultural production was for market rather than for the farmer and his family. The 16th-century market radius was about 10 miles, which could support a town of 10,000.[18]

The next stage of development was trading between markets, requiring merchants, credit and forward sales, knowledge of markets and pricing and of supply and demand in different markets. Eventually, the market evolved into a national one driven by London and other growing cities. By 1700, there was a national market for wheat.

Legislation regulating middlemen required registration, addressed weights and measures, fixing of prices and collection of tolls by the government. Market regulations were eased in 1663 when people were allowed some self-regulation to hold inventory, but it was forbidden to withhold commodities from the market in an effort to increase prices. In the late 18th century, the idea of self-regulation was gaining acceptance.[19]

The lack of internal tariffs, customs barriers and feudal tolls made Britain "the largest coherent market in Europe".[20]

Transportation infrastructures

High wagon transportation costs made it uneconomical to ship commodities very far outside the market radius by road, generally limiting shipment to less than 20 or 30 miles to market or to a navigable waterway. Water transport was, and in some cases still is, much more efficient than land transport. In the early 19th century it cost as much to transport a ton of freight 32 miles by wagon over an unimproved road as it did to ship it 3000 miles across the Atlantic.[21] A horse could pull at most one ton of freight on a Macadam road, which was multi-layer stone covered and crowned, with side drainage. But a single horse could pull a barge weighing over 30 tons.

Commerce was aided by the expansion of roads and inland waterways. Road transport capacity grew from threefold to fourfold from 1500 to 1700.[22][23]

Railroads would eventually reduce the cost of land transport by over 95%; however they did not become important until after 1850.

Land conversion, drainage and reclamation

Another way to get more land was to convert some pasture land into arable land and recover fen land and some pastures. It is estimated that the amount of arable land in Britain grew by 10–30% through these land conversions.

The British Agricultural Revolution was aided by land maintenance advancements in Flanders and the Netherlands. Due to the large and dense population of Flanders and Holland, farmers there were forced to take maximum advantage of every bit of usable land; the country had become a pioneer in canal building, soil restoration and maintenance, soil drainage, and land reclamation technology. Dutch experts like Cornelius Vermuyden brought some of this technology to Britain.

Water-meadows were utilised in the late 16th to the 20th centuries and allowed earlier pasturing of livestock after they were wintered on hay. This increased livestock yields, giving more hides, meat, milk, and manure as well as better hay crops.

Rise in domestic farmers

With the development of regional markets and eventually a national market, aided by improved transportation infrastructures, farmers were no longer dependent on their local market and were less subject to having to sell at low prices into an oversupplied local market and not being able to sell their surpluses to distant localities that were experiencing shortages. They also became less subject to price fixing regulations. Farming became a business rather than solely a means of subsistence.[24]

Under free market capitalism, farmers had to remain competitive. To be successful, farmers had to become effective managers who incorporated the latest farming innovations in order to be low cost producers.

Selective breeding of livestock

In England, Robert Bakewell and Thomas Coke introduced selective breeding as a scientific practice, mating together two animals with particularly desirable characteristics, and also using inbreeding or the mating of close relatives, such as father and daughter, or brother and sister, to stabilise certain qualities in order to reduce genetic diversity in desirable animal programmes from the mid-18th century. Arguably, Bakewell's most important breeding programme was with sheep. Using native stock, he was able to quickly select for large, yet fine-boned sheep, with long, lustrous wool. The Lincoln Longwool was improved by Bakewell, and in turn the Lincoln was used to develop the subsequent breed, named the New (or Dishley) Leicester. It was hornless and had a square, meaty body with straight top lines.[25]

Bakewell was also the first to breed cattle to be used primarily for beef. Previously, cattle were first and foremost kept for pulling ploughs as oxen or for dairy uses, with beef from surplus males as an additional bonus, but he crossed long-horned heifers and a Westmoreland bull to eventually create the Dishley Longhorn. As more and more farmers followed his lead, farm animals increased dramatically in size and quality. The average weight of a bull sold for slaughter at Smithfield was reported around 1700 as 370 pounds (170 kg), though this is considered a low estimate: by 1786, weights of 840 pounds (380 kg) were reported,[26][27] though other contemporary indicators suggest an increase of around a quarter over the intervening century.

British agriculture, 1800–1900

Besides the organic fertilisers in manure, new fertilisers were slowly discovered. Massive sodium nitrate (NaNO3) deposits found in the Atacama Desert, Chile, were brought under British financiers like John Thomas North and imports were started. Chile was happy to allow the exports of these sodium nitrates by allowing the British to use their capital to develop the mining and imposing a hefty export tax to enrich their treasury. Massive deposits of sea bird guano (11–16% N, 8–12% phosphate, and 2–3% potash), were found and started to be imported after about 1830. Significant imports of potash obtained from the ashes of trees burned in opening new agricultural lands were imported. By-products of the British meat industry like bones from the knackers' yards were ground up or crushed and sold as fertiliser. By about 1840 about 30,000 tons of bones were being processed (worth about £150,000). An unusual alternative to bones was found to be the millions of tons of fossils called coprolites found in South East England. When these were dissolved in sulphuric acid they yielded a high phosphate mixture (called "super phosphate") that plants could absorb readily and increased crop yields. Mining coprolite and processing it for fertiliser soon developed into a major industry—the first commercial fertiliser.[28] Higher yield per acre crops were also planted as potatoes went from about 300,000 acres in 1800 to about 400,000 acres in 1850 with a further increase to about 500,000 in 1900.[29] Labour productivity slowly increased at about 0.6% per year. With more capital invested, more organic and inorganic fertilisers, and better crop yields increased the food grown at about 0.5%/year—not enough to keep up with population growth.

Great Britain contained about 10.8 million people in 1801, 20.7 million in 1851 and 37.1 million by 1901. This corresponds to an annual population growth rate of 1.3% in 1801-1851 and 1.2% in 1851-1901, twice the rate of agricultural output growth.[30] In addition to land for cultivation there was also a demand for pasture land to support more livestock. The growth of arable acreage slowed from the 1830s and went into reverse from the 1870s in the face of cheaper grain imports, and wheat acreage nearly halved from 1870 to 1900.[31]

The recovery of food imports after the Napoleonic Wars (1803–1815) and the resumption of American trade following the War of 1812 (1812–1815) led to the enactment in 1815 of the Corn Laws (protective tariffs) to protect cereal grain producers in Britain against foreign competition. These laws were only removed in 1846 after the onset of the Irish Potato Famine in which potato late blight [32] ruined most of the Irish potato crop and brought famine to the Irish people in 1846–50. Though the blight also struck Scotland, Wales, England, and much of Europe, its effect there was far less severe since potatoes constituted a much smaller percentage of the diet than in Ireland. Despite this, Ireland still produced agricultural surpluses during the famine- most of the food was exported to English cities and British authorities refused to close the ports. Hundreds of thousands died in the Irish famine and millions more emigrated to England, Wales, Scotland, Canada, Australia, Europe, and the United States, reducing the population from about 8.5 million in 1845 to 4.3 million by 1921.

Between 1873 and 1879 British agriculture suffered from wet summers that damaged grain crops. Cattle farmers were hit by foot-and-mouth disease, and sheep farmers by sheep liver rot. The poor harvests, however, masked a greater threat to British agriculture: growing imports of foodstuffs from abroad. The development of the steam ship and the development of extensive railway networks in Britain and in the United States allowed U.S. farmers with much larger and more productive farms to export hard grain to Britain at a price that undercut the British farmers. At the same time, large amounts of cheap corned beef started to arrive from Argentina, and the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869 and the development of refrigerator ships (reefers) in about 1880 opened the British market to cheap meat and wool from Australia, New Zealand, and Argentina. The Long Depression was a worldwide economic recession that began in 1873 and ended around 1896. It hit the agricultural sector hard and was the most severe in Europe and the United States, which had been experiencing strong economic growth fuelled by the Second Industrial Revolution in the decade following the American Civil War. By 1900 half the meat eaten in Britain came from abroad and tropical fruits such as bananas were also being imported on the new refrigerator ships.

Seed planting

Before the introduction of the seed drill, the common practice was to plant seeds by broadcasting (evenly throwing) them across the ground by hand on the prepared soil and then lightly harrowing the soil to cover the seed. Seeds left on top of the ground were eaten by birds, insects, and mice. There was no control over spacing and seeds were planted too close together and too far apart. Alternately seeds could be laboriously planted one by one using a hoe and/or a shovel. Cutting down on wasted seed was important because the yield of seeds harvested to seeds planted at that time was around four or five.

The seed drill was introduced from China to Italy in the mid-16th century where it was patented by the Venetian Senate.[33] Jethro Tull invented an improved seed drill in 1701. It was a mechanical seeder which distributed seeds evenly across a plot of land and at the correct depth. Tull's seed drill was very expensive and fragile and therefore did not have much of an impact.[34] The technology to manufacture affordable and reliable machinery, including agricultural machines, improved dramatically in the last half of the nineteenth century.[35]


The Agricultural Revolution was part of a long process of improvement, but sound advice on farming began to appear in England in the mid-17th century, from writers such as Samuel Hartlib, Walter Blith and others,[36] and the overall agricultural productivity of Britain started to grow significantly only in the period of the Agricultural Revolution. It is estimated that total agricultural output grew 2.7-fold between 1700 and 1870 and output per worker at a similar rate.

Despite its name, the Agricultural Revolution in Britain did not result in overall productivity per hectare of agricultural area as high as in China, where intensive cultivation (including multiple annual cropping in many areas) had been practised for many centuries.[37][38]

The Agricultural Revolution in Britain proved to be a major turning point in history, allowing population to far exceed earlier peaks and sustain the country's rise to industrial pre-eminence. Towards the end of the 19th century, the substantial gains in British agricultural productivity were rapidly offset by competition from cheaper imports, made possible by the exploitation of new lands and advances in transportation, refrigeration, and other technologies.

See also


  1. ^ Richards, Denis; Hunt, J.W. (1983). An Illustrated History of Modern Britain: 1783–1980 (3rd ed.). Hong Kong: Longman Group UK LTD. p. 7. ISBN 978-0-582-33130-3.
  2. ^ G. E. Mingay (ed.) (1977), The Agricultural Revolution: Changes in Agriculture 1650–1880, p. 3
  3. ^ Peter Jones (2016), Agricultural Enlightenment: Knowledge, Technology, and Nature, 1750–1840, p. 7
  4. ^ See also Joel Mokry (2009), The Enlightened Economy: Britain and the Industrial Revolution 1700–1850, p. 173
  5. ^ a b Overton 1996, p. 1
  6. ^ R. W. Sturgess, "The Agricultural Revolution on the English Clays." Agricultural History Review (1966): 104-121. in JSTOIR
  7. ^ Apostolides, Alexander; Broadberry, Stephen; Campbell, Bruce; Overton, Mark; van Leeuwen, Bas (26 November 2008). "English Agricultural Output and Labour Productivity, 1250–1850: Some Preliminary Estimates" (PDF). Retrieved 1 May 2019.
  8. ^ Overton 1996, p. 117
  9. ^ Overton 1996, p. 167
  10. ^ Overton 1996, p. 116, 117
  11. ^ Overton, Mark (17 February 2011). "Agricultural Revolution in England 1500–1850". British History. BBC History. Retrieved 1 May 2019.
  12. ^ Overton 1996, p. 77.
  13. ^ Overton 1996
  14. ^ a b c Temple 1986, pp. 18, 20
  15. ^ "The Rotherham Plough". Rotherham: The Unofficial Website. Archived from the original on 14 August 2014. Retrieved 17 May 2017.
  16. ^ "The Rotherham Plough". Archived from the original on 24 September 2015. Retrieved 17 May 2017.
  17. ^ Landes, David S. (1969). The Unbound Prometheus: Technological Change and Industrial Development in Western Europe from 1750 to the Present. Cambridge University Press. p. 18. ISBN 978-0-521-09418-4.
  18. ^ Overton 1996, pp. 134–6
  19. ^ Overton 1996, pp. 135, 145
  20. ^ Landes, David. S. (1969). The Unbound Prometheus: Technological Change and Industrial Development in Western Europe from 1750 to the Present. Cambridge, New York: Press Syndicate of the University of Cambridge. p. 46. ISBN 978-0-521-09418-4.
  21. ^ Taylor, George Rogers (1969). The Transportation Revolution, 1815-1860. p. 132. ISBN 978-0873321013.
  22. ^ Overton 1996, pp. 137–140
  23. ^ Grubler, Arnulf (1990). The Rise and Fall of Infrastructures: Dynamics of Evolution and Technological Change in transport (PDF). Heidelberg and New York: Physica-Verlag. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2012-07-07. Retrieved 2014-03-02.
  24. ^ Overton 1996, pp. 205–6
  25. ^ "Robert Bakewell (1725 - 1795)". BBC History. Retrieved 20 July 2012.
  26. ^ John R. Walton, "The diffusion of the improved Shorthorn breed of cattle in Britain during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries." Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers (1984): 22-36. in JSTOR
  27. ^ John R. Walton, "Pedigree and the national cattle herd circa 1750–1950." Agricultural History Review (1986): 149-170. in JSTOR
  28. ^ Coprolite Fertilizer Industry in Britain Archived 2011-07-15 at the Wayback Machine. Accessed 3 April 2012.
  29. ^ British food puzzle Archived 2012-04-15 at the Wayback Machine. Accessed 6 April 2012.
  30. ^ "English Agricultural Output and Labour Productivity, 1250–1850: Some Preliminary Estimates". Accessed 21 March 2012.
  31. ^ British Agricultural Statistics. Accessed 6 April 2011.
  32. ^ Accessed 6 April 2012.
  33. ^ Temple, Robert (1986). The Genius of China: 3000 years of science, discovery and invention. New York: Simon and Schuster.
  34. ^ Temple 1986, pp. 20-26
  35. ^ Hounshell, David A. (1984), From the American System to Mass Production, 1800-1932: The Development of Manufacturing Technology in the United States, Baltimore, Maryland: Johns Hopkins University Press, ISBN 978-0-8018-2975-8, LCCN 83016269
  36. ^ Thirsk. 'Walter Blith' in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography online edn, Jan 2008
  37. ^ Merson, John (1990). The Genius That Was China: East and West in the Making of the Modern World. Woodstock, New York: The Overlook Press. pp. 23–6. ISBN 978-0-87951-397-9A companion to the PBS Series “The Genius That Was China”
  38. ^ Temple, Robert; Joseph Needham (1986). The Genius of China: 3000 years of science, discovery and invention. New York: Simon and Schuster. p. 26Temple estimates Chinese crop yields were between 10 and twenty times higher than in the West. This is not the case. Perkins finds an average Chinese grain yield about twice the late 18th-century European average. China's advantage was in intensive land use and high labour inputs, rather than in individual crop yields (except for rice, suited only to some parts of Mediterranean Europe).

Further reading

  • Ang, James B., Rajabrata Banerjee, and Jakob B. Madsen. "Innovation and productivity advances in British agriculture: 1620–1850". Southern Economic Journal 80.1 (2013): 162–186.
  • Campbell, Bruce M. S., and Mark Overton. "A new perspective on medieval and early modern agriculture: six centuries of Norfolk farming c. 1250-c. 1850." Past and Present (1993): 38-105. JSTOR 651030.
  • Clark, Gregory. "Too much revolution: Agriculture in the industrial revolution, 1700–1860". In The British Industrial Revolution: An Economic Perspective (2nd ed. 1999) pp. 206–240.
  • Dodd, William (1847). The Laboring Classes of England : especially those engaged in agriculture and manufactures; in a series of letters . Boston: John Putnam.
  • Fletcher, T. W. "The Great Depression of English Agriculture 1873–1896". Economic History Review (1961) 13#3 pp: 417–432. doi:10.1111/j.1468-0289.1961.tb02128.x.
  • Harrison, L. F. C. (1989). The Common People, a History from the Norman Conquest to the Present. Glasgow: Fontana. ISBN 978-0-00-686163-8.
  • Hoyle, Richard W., ed. (2013). The Farmer in England, 1650–1980. Ashgate.CS1 maint: Extra text: authors list (link)
  • Kerridge, Eric (2013). The Agricultural Revolution. Routledge.
  • Mingay, Gordon E. "The 'Agricultural Revolution' in English History: A Reconsideration". Agricultural History (1963): 123–133. JSTOR 3740366.
  • Mingay, Gordon E. (1977). The Agricultural Revolution: Changes in Agriculture, 1650–1880. (Documents in Economic History.) Adam & Charles Black. ISBN 0713617039.
  • Overton, Mark (1996). Agricultural Revolution in England: The transformation of the agrarian economy 1500-1850. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-56859-3.
  • Overton, Mark (2002). Agricultural Revolution in England 1500–1850. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-56859-3.
  • Snell, K. D. M. (1985). Annals of the Labouring Poor, Social Change and Agrarian England 1660–1900. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-24548-7.
  • Taylor, George Rogers (1969) [1951]. The Transportation Revolution, 1815–1860. The Economic History of the United States: Vol. 4. Armonk, NY: M. E. Sharpe. ISBN 9780873321013. OCLC 963968247.
  • Temple, Robert (1986). The Genius of China: 3000 Years of Science, Discovery and Invention. Simon and Schuster.
  • Thirsk, Joan (2004). "Blith, Walter (bap. 1605, d. 1654)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press.


  • Robert C. Allen. "Tracking the Agricultural Revolution in England". Economic History Review (1999) 52#2 pp. 209–235. doi:10.1111/1468-0289.00123.
  • Overton, Mark (1996). "Re-establishing the English Agricultural Revolution". Agricultural History Review. 44 (1): 1–20. JSTOR 40275062.

External links

Agricultural History Review

The Agricultural History Review. A Journal of Agricultural and Rural History is a peer-reviewed academic journal published quarterly by the British Agricultural History Society. It was established in 1953.

Agricultural revolution

Agricultural revolution may refer to:

First Agricultural Revolution (circa 10,000 BC), the prehistoric transition from hunting and gathering to settled agriculture (also known as the Neolithic Revolution)

Arab Agricultural Revolution (8th–13th century), the spread of new crops and advanced techniques in the Muslim world

British Agricultural Revolution (17th–19th century), an unprecedented increase in agricultural productivity in Great Britain (also known as the Second Agricultural Revolution)

Scottish Agricultural Revolution (17th–19th century), the transformation into a modern and productive system

Third Agricultural Revolution (1930s–1960s), an increase in agricultural production, especially in the developing world (also known as the Green Revolution)

Agricultural science

Agricultural science is a broad multidisciplinary field of biology that encompasses the parts of exact, natural, economic and social sciences that are used in the practice and understanding of agriculture. (Veterinary science, but not animal science, is often excluded from the definition.)


Agronomy (from Ancient Greek ἀγρός agrós "field" and νόμος nómos "law") is the science and technology of producing and using plants for food, fuel, fiber, and land reclamation. Agronomy has come to encompass work in the areas of plant genetics, plant physiology, meteorology, and soil science. It is the application of a combination of sciences like biology, chemistry, economics, ecology, earth science, and genetics. Agronomists of today are involved with many issues, including producing food, creating healthier food, managing the environmental impact of agriculture, and extracting energy from plants. Agronomists often specialise in areas such as crop rotation, irrigation and drainage, plant breeding, plant physiology, soil classification, soil fertility, weed control, and insect and pest control.

Andrew Meikle

Andrew Meikle (5 May 1719 – 27 November 1811) was a Scottish mechanical engineer credited with inventing the threshing machine, a device used to remove the outer husks from grains of wheat. He also had a hand in assisting Firbeck in the invention of the Rotherham Plough. This was regarded as one of the key developments of the British Agricultural Revolution in the late 18th century. The invention was made around 1786, although some say he only improved on an earlier design by a Scottish farmer named Leckie.

Michael Stirling is said to have invented a rotary threshing machine in 1758 which for forty years was used to process all the corn on his farm at Gateside, no published works have yet been found but his son William made a sworn statement to his minister to this fact, he also gave him the details of his fathers death in 1796.Earlier (c.1772), he also invented windmill "spring sails", which replaced the simple canvas designs previously used with sails made from a series of shutters that could be operated by levers, allowing windmill sails to be quickly and safely controlled in the event of a storm.

Meikle worked as a millwright at Houston Mill in East Linton, East Lothian, and inspired John Rennie to become a noted civil engineer.

He died at Houston Mill and is buried in East Linton's Prestonkirk Parish Church kirkyard, close to Rennie's father, George Rennie, who farmed the nearby Phantassie estate by the River Tyne.

In 2011 he was one of seven inaugural inductees to the Scottish Engineering Hall of Fame.

Animal husbandry

Animal husbandry is the branch of agriculture concerned with animals that are raised for meat, fibre, milk, eggs, or other products. It includes day-to-day care, selective breeding and the raising of livestock.

Husbandry has a long history, starting with the Neolithic revolution when animals were first domesticated, from around 13,000 BC onwards, antedating farming of the first crops. By the time of early civilisations such as ancient Egypt, cattle, sheep, goats and pigs were being raised on farms.

Major changes took place in the Columbian Exchange when Old World livestock were brought to the New World, and then in the British Agricultural Revolution of the 18th century, when livestock breeds like the Dishley Longhorn cattle and Lincoln Longwool sheep were rapidly improved by agriculturalists such as Robert Bakewell to yield more meat, milk, and wool.

A wide range of other species such as horse, water buffalo, llama, rabbit and guinea pig are used as livestock in some parts of the world. Insect farming, as well as aquaculture of fish, molluscs, and crustaceans, is widespread.

Modern animal husbandry relies on production systems adapted to the type of land available. Subsistence farming is being superseded by intensive animal farming in the more developed parts of the world, where for example beef cattle are kept in high density feedlots, and thousands of chickens may be raised in broiler houses or batteries. On poorer soil such as in uplands, animals are often kept more extensively, and may be allowed to roam widely, foraging for themselves.

Most livestock are herbivores, except for pigs and chickens which are omnivores. Ruminants like cattle and sheep are adapted to feed on grass; they can forage outdoors, or may be fed entirely or in part on rations richer in energy and protein, such as pelleted cereals. Pigs and poultry cannot digest the cellulose in forage, and require cereals and other high-energy foods.

Charles Townshend, 2nd Viscount Townshend

Charles Townshend, 2nd Viscount Townshend, (; 18 April 1674 – 21 June 1738) was an English Whig statesman. He served for a decade as Secretary of State for the Northern Department, 1714–1717, 1721–1730. He directed British foreign policy in close collaboration with his brother-in-law, prime minister Robert Walpole. He was often known as Turnip Townshend because of his strong interest in farming turnips and his role in the British Agricultural Revolution.

Convertible husbandry

Within agriculture, convertible husbandry, also known as alternate husbandry, ley husbandry or up-and-down husbandry, was a process used during the 16th century through the 19th century by "which a higher proportion of land was used to support increasing numbers of livestock in many parts of England." In the words of historian Eric Kerridge, convertible husbandry consisted of "the floating of water-meadows, the substitution of up-and-down husbandry for permanent tillage and permanent grass or for shifting cultivation, the introduction of new fallow crops and selected grasses, marsh drainage, manuring, and stock breeding." Convertible husbandry is considered one of the most important changes of the British Agricultural Revolution.


Enclosure (sometimes inclosure) was the legal process in England of consolidating (enclosing) small landholdings into larger farms since the 13th century. Once enclosed, use of the land became restricted to the owner, and it ceased to be common land for communal use. In England and Wales the term is also used for the process that ended the ancient system of arable farming in open fields. Under enclosure, such land is fenced (enclosed) and deeded or entitled to one or more owners. The process of enclosure began to be a widespread feature of the English agricultural landscape during the 16th century. By the 19th century, unenclosed commons had become largely restricted to rough pasture in mountainous areas and to relatively small parts of the lowlands.

Enclosure could be accomplished by buying the ground rights and all common rights to accomplish exclusive rights of use, which increased the value of the land. The other method was by passing laws causing or forcing enclosure, such as Parliamentary enclosure involving an Inclosure Act. The latter process of enclosure was sometimes accompanied by force, resistance, and bloodshed, and remains among the most controversial areas of agricultural and economic history in England. Marxist historians argue that rich landowners used their control of state processes to appropriate public land for their private benefit. During the Georgian era, the process of enclosure created a landless working class that provided the labour required in the new industries developing in the north of England. For example: "In agriculture the years between 1760 and 1820 are the years of wholesale enclosure in which, in village after village, common rights are lost". E. P. Thompson argues that "Enclosure (when all the sophistications are allowed for) was a plain enough case of class robbery."W. A. Armstrong, among others, argued that this is perhaps an oversimplification, that the better-off members of the European peasantry encouraged and participated actively in enclosure, seeking to end the perpetual poverty of subsistence farming. "We should be careful not to ascribe to [enclosure] developments that were the consequence of a much broader and more complex process of historical change." Armstrong notes that enclosure had varying impacts on levels of poor relief in western and eastern counties, and suggests the decrease in agricultural wages in this period (and subsequent emigration to urban areas) was more related to overall rural population growth instead.Enclosure is considered one of the causes of the British Agricultural Revolution. Enclosed land was under control of the farmer who was free to adopt better farming practices. There was widespread agreement in contemporary accounts that profit making opportunities were better with enclosed land. Following enclosure, crop yields increased while at the same time labour productivity increased enough to create a surplus of labour. The increased labour supply is considered one of the causes of the Industrial Revolution. Marx argued in Capital that enclosure played a constitutive role in the revolutionary transformation of feudalism into capitalism, both by transforming land from a means of subsistence into a means to realize profit on commodity markets (primarily wool in the English case), and by creating the conditions for the modern labour market by transforming small peasant proprietors and serfs into agricultural wage-labourers, whose opportunities to exit the market declined as the common lands were enclosed.

History of agriculture

The history of agriculture records the domestication of plants and animals and the development and dissemination of techniques for raising them productively. Agriculture began independently in different parts of the globe, and included a diverse range of taxa. At least eleven separate regions of the Old and New World were involved as independent centers of origin.

Wild grains were collected and eaten from at least 20,000 BC. From around 9500 BC, the eight Neolithic founder crops – emmer wheat, einkorn wheat, hulled barley, peas, lentils, bitter vetch, chick peas, and flax – were cultivated in the Levant. Rye may have been cultivated earlier but this remains controversial. Rice was domesticated in China by 6200 BC with earliest known cultivation from 5700 BC, followed by mung, soy and azuki beans. Pigs were domesticated in Mesopotamia around 11,000 BC, followed by sheep between 11,000 BC and 9000 BC. Cattle were domesticated from the wild aurochs in the areas of modern Turkey and Pakistan around 8500 BC. Sugarcane and some root vegetables were domesticated in New Guinea around 7000 BC. Sorghum was domesticated in the Sahel region of Africa by 5000 BC. In the Andes of South America, the potato was domesticated between 8000 BC and 5000 BC, along with beans, coca, llamas, alpacas, and guinea pigs. Bananas were cultivated and hybridized in the same period in Papua New Guinea. In Mesoamerica, wild teosinte was domesticated to maize by 4000 BC. Cotton was domesticated in Peru by 3600 BC. Camels were domesticated late, perhaps around 3000 BC.

The Bronze Age, from c. 3300 BC, witnessed the intensification of agriculture in civilizations such as Mesopotamian Sumer, ancient Egypt, the Indus Valley Civilisation of the Indian subcontinent, ancient China, and ancient Greece. During the Iron Age and era of classical antiquity, the expansion of ancient Rome, both the Republic and then the Empire, throughout the ancient Mediterranean and Western Europe built upon existing systems of agriculture while also establishing the manorial system that became a bedrock of medieval agriculture. In the Middle Ages, both in the Islamic world and in Europe, agriculture was transformed with improved techniques and the diffusion of crop plants, including the introduction of sugar, rice, cotton and fruit trees such as the orange to Europe by way of Al-Andalus. After the voyages of Christopher Columbus in 1492, the Columbian exchange brought New World crops such as maize, potatoes, sweet potatoes, and manioc to Europe, and Old World crops such as wheat, barley, rice, and turnips, and livestock including horses, cattle, sheep, and goats to the Americas.

Irrigation, crop rotation, and fertilizers were introduced soon after the Neolithic Revolution and developed much further in the past 200 years, starting with the British Agricultural Revolution. Since 1900, agriculture in the developed nations, and to a lesser extent in the developing world, has seen large rises in productivity as human labour has been replaced by mechanization, and assisted by synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, and selective breeding. The Haber-Bosch process allowed the synthesis of ammonium nitrate fertilizer on an industrial scale, greatly increasing crop yields. Modern agriculture has raised social, political, and environmental issues including water pollution, biofuels, genetically modified organisms, tariffs and farm subsidies. In response, organic farming developed in the twentieth century as an alternative to the use of synthetic pesticides.


Intercropping is a multiple cropping practice involving growing two or more crops in proximity. The most common goal of intercropping is to produce a greater yield on a given piece of land by making use of resources or ecological processes that would otherwise not be utilized by a single crop.

Jacobite risings

The Jacobite risings, also known as the Jacobite rebellions or the War of the British Succession, were a series of uprisings, rebellions, and wars in Great Britain and Ireland occurring between 1688 and 1746. The uprisings had the aim of returning James II of England and VII of Scotland, the last Catholic British monarch, and later his descendants of the House of Stuart, to the throne of Great Britain after they had been deposed by Parliament during the Glorious Revolution. The series of conflicts takes its name Jacobitism, from Jacobus, the Latin form of James.

Jacobite rising may refer to any of the following:

Jacobite rising of 1689

Williamite War in Ireland, James's attempts to regain the throne in Ireland

Jacobite assassination plot 1696

Planned French invasion of Britain (1708), included Jacobite support.

Jacobite rising of 1715

Jacobite rising of 1719

Planned French invasion of Britain (1744), included Jacobite support.

Jacobite rising of 1745

Planned French invasion of Britain (1759), included Jacobite support.

Jethro Tull (agriculturist)

Jethro Tull (1674 – 21 February 1741, New Style) was an English agricultural pioneer from Berkshire who helped bring about the British Agricultural Revolution. He perfected a horse-drawn seed drill in 1700 that economically sowed the seeds in neat rows. He later developed a horse-drawn hoe. Tull's methods were adopted by many great landowners and helped to provide the basis for modern agriculture.

List of cultural, intellectual, philosophical and technological revolutions

The term revolution is used to denote trends which have resulted in great social changes outside the political sphere, such as changes in mores, culture, philosophy or technology. Many have been global, while others have been limited to single countries. Such revolutions include:

The Agricultural Revolutions, which include:

The Neolithic Revolution (perhaps 13000 years ago), which formed the basis for human civilization to develop. It is commonly referred to as the 'First Agricultural Revolution'.

The Green Revolution (1945–): The use of industrial fertilizers and new crops greatly increased the world's agricultural output. It is commonly referred to as the 'Second Agricultural Revolution'.

The British Agricultural Revolution (18th century), which spurred urbanisation and consequently helped launch the Industrial Revolution.

The Scottish Agricultural Revolution (18th century), which led to the Lowland Clearances.

The Commercial Revolution: A period of European economic expansion, colonialism, and mercantilism which lasted from approximately the 16th century until the early 18th century.

The Counterculture of the 1960s (approximately 1960–1973) was a social revolution that originated in the United States and United Kingdom, and eventually spread to other western nations. The themes of this movement included the anti-war movement, civil rights for African-Americans, rebellion against conservative norms, drug use, and the sexual revolution (see below).

The Sexual revolution: A change in sexual morality and sexual behavior throughout the Western world, mainly during the 1960s and 1970s.

The Chinese Cultural Revolution: A struggle for power within the Communist Party of China, which grew to include large sections of Chinese society and eventually brought the People's Republic of China to the brink of civil war, and which lasted from 1966 to 1976.

The Iranian Cultural Revolution: A struggle for power within Iran after the return to Tehran February 1, 1979 of Ayatolla Khomeini after a 15-year exile, who was declared ruler for life in December of the same year, and which lasted from 1980 to 1983.

The Digital Revolution: The sweeping changes brought about by computing and communication technology, starting from circa 1950 with the creation of the first general-purpose electronic computers.

The Industrial Revolution: The major shift of technological, socioeconomic and cultural conditions in the late 18th century and early 19th century that began in Britain and spread throughout the world.

The Second Industrial Revolution (1871–1914).

The Price revolution: A series of economic events from the second half of the 15th century to the first half of the 17th, the price revolution refers most specifically to the high rate of inflation that characterized the period across Western Europe.

The Quiet Revolution: A period of rapid change in Quebec, Canada, in the 1960s. This leads to the separatist movement for Quebec sovereignty and two referendums.

The Scientific revolution: A fundamental transformation in scientific ideas around the 16th century.

The Upper Paleolithic Revolution: The emergence of "high culture", new technologies and regionally distinct cultures.

List of parliaments of Great Britain

This is a listing of sessions of the Parliament of Great Britain, tabulated with the elections to the House of Commons of Great Britain for each session, and the list of members of the House.

The sessions are numbered from the formation of the Kingdom of Great Britain. For later Westminster parliaments, see List of parliaments of the United Kingdom, and for earlier ones, see List of parliaments of England and List of parliaments of Scotland.

Medieval English wool trade

The medieval English wool trade was one of the most important factors in the medieval English economy. 'No form of manufacturing had a greater impact upon the economy and society of medieval Britain than did those industries producing cloths from various kinds of wool'. The trade's liveliest period, 1250–1350, was 'an era when trade in wool had been the backbone and driving force in the English medieval economy'.The wool trade was a major driver of enclosure (the privatisation of common land) in English agriculture, which in turn had major social consequences, as part of the British Agricultural Revolution.

Among the lasting monuments to the success of the trade are the 'wool churches' of East Anglia and the Cotswolds; the London Worshipful Company of Clothworkers; and the fact that since the fourteenth century, the presiding officer of the House of Lords has sat on the Woolsack, a chair stuffed with wool.

Robert Bakewell (agriculturalist)

Robert Bakewell (23 May 1725 – 1 October 1795) was a British agriculturalist, now recognized as one of the most important figures in the British Agricultural Revolution. In addition to work in agronomy, Bakewell is particularly notable as the first to implement systematic selective breeding of livestock. His advancements not only led to specific improvements in sheep, cattle and horses, but contributed to general knowledge of artificial selection.

Rowland Vaughan

Rowland Vaughan (1559–1629) was an English manorial lord who is credited with the introduction of a new irrigation system that greatly improved the grass and hay production of meadows through a system of periodic "drownings". This method so improved grass production that lands formerly needed to provide livestock with food during the winter could be given over to grazing or cereal production. It was one of the many new methods introduced during the British Agricultural Revolution that increased crop yields and allowed for the development of large cities.


Syresham is a village and civil parish in the English district of South Northamptonshire. The civil parish population at the 2011 census was 855. It is near Brackley town and close to Silverstone Circuit. It is surrounded by villages and hamlets such as Biddlesden, Whitfield, Helmdon, Silverstone and Wappenham, and the border with Buckinghamshire lies just to the south of the village. The border itself is defined by the River Great Ouse, which rises within the parish. There are two small hamlets in the parish: Crowfield and Pimlico.

The local geology includes the cornbrash and oolitic limestone of Jurassic age. There is a large abandoned quarry north of the church which supplied the stone for many of the older buildings in the village. The population, like so many other villages in England, is now much lower than even a century ago due to the British agricultural revolution. There are the remains of a very large fish pond south of the church and close to the manor house. The dam wall still stands but the pond was drained long ago for its rich pasture.

Following the Dissolution of the Monasteries most of the land in and around Syresham passed to Magdalen College, Oxford. Much of the estate has now been sold off, however

There are several deserted medieval villages nearby, including Astwell near Helmdon, the site of the still standing keep or gatehouse of Astwell Castle.

and regulation
Nations and regions
and labour
Trade and
Royal houses

This page is based on a Wikipedia article written by authors (here).
Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license; additional terms may apply.
Images, videos and audio are available under their respective licenses.