Agriculture in the Industrial Revolution

January 17, 2024
A British crop sprayer by

The historian Arnold Toynbee created the idea that between 1750 and 1830, there was an Agricultural Revolution.

Toynbee, and the other first historians of the Agricultural Revolution, presented it as the work of 'heroes':

  • 'Turnip' Townshend introduced the turnip and the Norfolk four-course rotation of wheat‒turnips‒barley‒clover onto his farm.
  • Robert Bakewell used selective breeding to develop the New Leicester sheep.
  • Coke of Holkham publicised the new ideas by inviting hundreds of people to his 'sheep shearings' ie agricultural shows.
  • Arthur Young wrote about the new methods.
  • The [parliamentary enclosure movement: The Parliamentary Enclosure Movement looked to turn all common land into privately owned fields.] was said to have destroyed the old three-field system, and created the modern 'patchwork' of enclosed fields.

During the 1960s, economic historians questioned this view suggesting that the changes were not really the work of this group and that they were just very good self-publicists.

What we do know is that over the period 1700 to 1850 farming [output: The amount of something produced.] almost doubled.

Recently, historians have suggested, again, that the critical period was 1750‒1830. They argue that the increasing use of fodder crops grown for animal food allowed farmers to keep more animals, which meant more meat for market, and more manure to put on the fields to increase crop yields.

  • From a historical point of view, never before have so few in the labor force been able to produce as much food as we do today. While advances in agricultural technology and fossil fuels drove part of that, crop selection also played a role. High yielding crops have meant that even as the ability of the farmer to farm more acres without additional labor, he was also able to expand the yields he was getting from those same acres. Check out the link to see a collection of videos from top farmers everywhere.
Industrial Revolution WebQuest
Industrial Revolution WebQuest
agriculture during the industrial revolution
agriculture during the industrial revolution
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