British Agricultural Revolution
Overview
British Agricultural Revolution describes a period of development in Britain between the 17th century and the end of the 19th century, which saw an epoch-making increase in agricultural productivity and net output. This in turn supported unprecedented population growth, freeing up a significant percentage of the workforce, and thereby helped drive the Industrial Revolution
Industrial Revolution
The Industrial Revolution was a period from the 18th to the 19th century where major changes in agriculture, manufacturing, mining, transportation, and technology had a profound effect on the social, economic and cultural conditions of the times...

. How this came about is not entirely clear, but the post-Renaissance advances in science, engineering and elementary botany
Botany
Botany, plant science, or plant biology is a branch of biology that involves the scientific study of plant life. Traditionally, botany also included the study of fungi, algae and viruses...

 likely encouraged the progression of the Agricultural Revolution in Britain.
Encyclopedia
British Agricultural Revolution describes a period of development in Britain between the 17th century and the end of the 19th century, which saw an epoch-making increase in agricultural productivity and net output. This in turn supported unprecedented population growth, freeing up a significant percentage of the workforce, and thereby helped drive the Industrial Revolution
Industrial Revolution
The Industrial Revolution was a period from the 18th to the 19th century where major changes in agriculture, manufacturing, mining, transportation, and technology had a profound effect on the social, economic and cultural conditions of the times...

. How this came about is not entirely clear, but the post-Renaissance advances in science, engineering and elementary botany
Botany
Botany, plant science, or plant biology is a branch of biology that involves the scientific study of plant life. Traditionally, botany also included the study of fungi, algae and viruses...

 likely encouraged the progression of the Agricultural Revolution in Britain. In recent decades, enclosure
Enclosure
Enclosure or inclosure is the process which ends traditional rights such as mowing meadows for hay, or grazing livestock on common land. Once enclosed, these uses of the land become restricted to the owner, and it ceases to be common land. In England and Wales the term is also used for the...

, mechanization
Mechanization
Mechanization or mechanisation is providing human operators with machinery that assists them with the muscular requirements of work or displaces muscular work. In some fields, mechanization includes the use of hand tools...

, four-field crop rotation, and selective breeding
Selective breeding
Selective breeding is the process of breeding plants and animals for particular genetic traits. Typically, strains that are selectively bred are domesticated, and the breeding is sometimes done by a professional breeder. Bred animals are known as breeds, while bred plants are known as varieties,...

 have been highlighted as primary causes, with credit given to only a relatively few individuals.

Enclosure

Prior to the 18th century, agriculture
Agriculture
Agriculture is the cultivation of animals, plants, fungi and other life forms for food, fiber, and other products used to sustain life. Agriculture was the key implement in the rise of sedentary human civilization, whereby farming of domesticated species created food surpluses that nurtured the...

 had been much the same across Europe
Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

 since the Middle Ages
Middle Ages
The Middle Ages is a periodization of European history from the 5th century to the 15th century. The Middle Ages follows the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 and precedes the Early Modern Era. It is the middle period of a three-period division of Western history: Classic, Medieval and Modern...

. The open field system
Open field system
The open field system was the prevalent agricultural system in much of Europe from the Middle Ages to as recently as the 20th century in some places, particularly Russia and Iran. Under this system, each manor or village had several very large fields, farmed in strips by individual families...

 was essentially feudal, with each farmer subsistence-cropping strips of land in one of three or four large fields held in common and splitting up the products likewise.

Beginning as early as the 12th century, some of the common fields in Britain were enclosed into individually owned fields, and the process rapidly accelerated in the 15th and 16th centuries. This led to farmers losing their land and their grazing rights
Grazing rights
Grazing rights is a legal term referring to the right of a user to allow their livestock to feed in a given area.- United States :...

 and left many unemployed. In the 16th and 17th centuries, the practice of enclosure
Enclosure
Enclosure or inclosure is the process which ends traditional rights such as mowing meadows for hay, or grazing livestock on common land. Once enclosed, these uses of the land become restricted to the owner, and it ceases to be common land. In England and Wales the term is also used for the...

 was denounced by the Church, and legislation was drawn up against it; but the developments in agricultural mechanization during the 18th century required large, enclosed fields so as to be workable. This led to a series of government acts, culminating in the General enclosure Act of 1801, which sanctioned large-scale land reform
Land reform
[Image:Jakarta farmers protest23.jpg|300px|thumb|right|Farmers protesting for Land Reform in Indonesia]Land reform involves the changing of laws, regulations or customs regarding land ownership. Land reform may consist of a government-initiated or government-backed property redistribution,...

.

While small farmers received compensation for their strips, it was minimal, while the loss of rights for the rural population led to reduction in their diets and an increased dependency on the Poor law
Poor Law
The English Poor Laws were a system of poor relief which existed in England and Wales that developed out of late-medieval and Tudor-era laws before being codified in 1587–98...

. Surveying and legal costs weighed heavily on poor farmers, who sometimes even had to sell their share of the land to pay for its being split up. Only a few found work in the (increasingly mechanized) enclosed farms for good. Many relocated to the cities or colonies to try to find their fortune or work in the emerging factories of the Industrial Revolution
Industrial Revolution
The Industrial Revolution was a period from the 18th to the 19th century where major changes in agriculture, manufacturing, mining, transportation, and technology had a profound effect on the social, economic and cultural conditions of the times...

.

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

Mechanisation

Jethro Tull
Jethro Tull (agriculturist)
Jethro Tull was an English agricultural pioneer who helped bring about the British Agricultural Revolution. He perfected a horse-drawn seed drill in 1701 that economically sowed the seeds in neat rows, and later a horse-drawn hoe...

 made early advancements in agricultural technology with his seed drill
Seed drill
A seed drill is a sowing device that precisely positions seeds in the soil and then covers them. Before the introduction of the seed drill, the common practice was to plant seeds by hand. Besides being wasteful, planting was very imprecise and led to a poor distribution of seeds, leading to low...

 (1701) — a mechanical seeder which distributed seeds efficiently across a plot of land. It took a century and a half after the publication in 1731 of his Horse hoeing husbandry for farmers to widely adopt the technology. (Although a pioneer in Europe, Tull was not the first to invent a seed drill; its origins can be traced back thousands of years to the East and Asia.)

Joseph Foljambe's Rotherham plough of 1730, while not the first iron plough
Plough
The plough or plow is a tool used in farming for initial cultivation of soil in preparation for sowing seed or planting. It has been a basic instrument for most of recorded history, and represents one of the major advances in agriculture...

, was the first iron plough to have any commercial success in Europe, combining an earlier Dutch design with a number of technological innovations. Its fittings and coulter were made of iron and the mouldboard and share were covered with an iron plate making it lighter to pull and more controllable than previous ploughs. It remained in use in Britain until the development of the tractor
Tractor
A tractor is a vehicle specifically designed to deliver a high tractive effort at slow speeds, for the purposes of hauling a trailer or machinery used in agriculture or construction...

. It was followed by James Small
James Small (inventor)
James Small was a Scottish inventor instrumental in the invention of the modern-style iron swing plough in 1784.-References:...

 of Doncaster
Doncaster
Doncaster is a town in South Yorkshire, England, and the principal settlement of the Metropolitan Borough of Doncaster. The town is about from Sheffield and is popularly referred to as "Donny"...

 and Berwickshire
Berwickshire
Berwickshire or the County of Berwick is a registration county, a committee area of the Scottish Borders Council, and a lieutenancy area of Scotland, on the border with England. The town after which it is named—Berwick-upon-Tweed—was lost by Scotland to England in 1482...

 in 1763, whose 'Scots Plough' used an improved cast iron share to turn the soil more effectively with less draft, wear, or strain on the ploughing team.
Andrew Meikle
Andrew Meikle
Andrew Meikle was an early mechanical engineer credited with inventing the threshing machine, a device used to remove the outer husks from grains of wheat. This was regarded as one of the key developments of the British Agricultural Revolution in the late 18th century...

's threshing
Threshing
Threshing is the process of loosening the edible part of cereal grain from the scaly, inedible chaff that surrounds it. It is the step in grain preparation after harvesting and before winnowing, which separates the loosened chaff from the grain...

 machine of 1786 was the final straw for many farm labourers, and led to an uprising that became known as the Swing Riots
Swing Riots
The Swing Riots were a widespread uprising by agricultural workers; it began with the destruction of threshing machines in the Elham Valley area of East Kent in the summer of 1830, and by early December had spread throughout the whole of southern England and East Anglia.As well as the attacks on...

, it began with the destruction of a threshing machine in the Elham Valley
Elham Valley
The Elham Valley is a chalk valley carved by the River Nailbourne situated in the North Downs in East Kent. The valley is named after the settlement of Elham...

 area of East Kent
East Kent
East Kent and West Kent are one-time traditional subdivisions of the English county of Kent, kept alive by the Association of the Men of Kent and Kentish Men: an organisation formed in 1913...

 in the summer of 1830, and by early December had spread throughout
the whole of southern England
England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

 and East Anglia
East Anglia
East Anglia is a traditional name for a region of eastern England, named after an ancient Anglo-Saxon kingdom, the Kingdom of the East Angles. The Angles took their name from their homeland Angeln, in northern Germany. East Anglia initially consisted of Norfolk and Suffolk, but upon the marriage of...

. The name was derived from the so called leader of the rebellion a Captain Swing
Captain Swing
Captain Swing was the name appended to some of the threatening letters during the rural English Swing Riots of 1830, when labourers rioted over the introduction of new threshing machines and the loss of their livelihoods...

 (probably a mythical character comparable to the Luddite
Luddite
The Luddites were a social movement of 19th-century English textile artisans who protested – often by destroying mechanised looms – against the changes produced by the Industrial Revolution, which they felt were leaving them without work and changing their way of life...

's Ned Ludd
Ned Ludd
Ned Ludd or Ned Lud, possibly born Ned Ludlam or Edward Ludlam, is the person from whom the Luddites took their name. His actions inspirated the folkloric character of Captain Ludd, also known as King Ludd or General Ludd, who became the Luddites' alleged leader and founder.It is believed that Ned...

).

In the 1850s and '60s John Fowler
John Fowler (agricultural engineer)
John Fowler was an English agricultural engineer who was a pioneer in the use of steam engines for ploughing and digging drainage channels...

, an agricultural engineer, pioneered the use of steam engines for ploughing and digging drainage channels.

Three-field crop rotation

During the Middle Ages
Middle Ages
The Middle Ages is a periodization of European history from the 5th century to the 15th century. The Middle Ages follows the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 and precedes the Early Modern Era. It is the middle period of a three-period division of Western history: Classic, Medieval and Modern...

, the open field system
Open field system
The open field system was the prevalent agricultural system in much of Europe from the Middle Ages to as recently as the 20th century in some places, particularly Russia and Iran. Under this system, each manor or village had several very large fields, farmed in strips by individual families...

 had employed a three year crop rotation
Crop rotation
Crop rotation is the practice of growing a series of dissimilar types of crops in the same area in sequential seasons.Crop rotation confers various benefits to the soil. A traditional element of crop rotation is the replenishment of nitrogen through the use of green manure in sequence with cereals...

, with a different crop in each of two fields, e.g. wheat and barley, and with the third field fallow. Over the following two centuries, the regular planting of legumes in the fields which were previously fallow slowly increased the fertility of croplands. The planting of legumes helped to increase plant growth in the empty field due to their ability to fix nitrogen
Nitrogen fixation
Nitrogen fixation is the natural process, either biological or abiotic, by which nitrogen in the atmosphere is converted into ammonia . This process is essential for life because fixed nitrogen is required to biosynthesize the basic building blocks of life, e.g., nucleotides for DNA and RNA and...

 in the soil. Other crops that were occasionally grown were flax
Flax
Flax is a member of the genus Linum in the family Linaceae. It is native to the region extending from the eastern Mediterranean to India and was probably first domesticated in the Fertile Crescent...

 and members of the mustard family. The farmers in Flanders
Flanders
Flanders is the community of the Flemings but also one of the institutions in Belgium, and a geographical region located in parts of present-day Belgium, France and the Netherlands. "Flanders" can also refer to the northern part of Belgium that contains Brussels, Bruges, Ghent and Antwerp...

 (in parts of France
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

 and current day Belgium
Belgium
Belgium , officially the Kingdom of Belgium, is a federal state in Western Europe. It is a founding member of the European Union and hosts the EU's headquarters, and those of several other major international organisations such as NATO.Belgium is also a member of, or affiliated to, many...

) discovered a still more effective four-field rotation system, using turnip
Turnip
The turnip or white turnip is a root vegetable commonly grown in temperate climates worldwide for its white, bulbous taproot. Small, tender varieties are grown for human consumption, while larger varieties are grown as feed for livestock...

s and clover
Clover
Clover , or trefoil, is a genus of about 300 species of plants in the leguminous pea family Fabaceae. The genus has a cosmopolitan distribution; the highest diversity is found in the temperate Northern Hemisphere, but many species also occur in South America and Africa, including at high altitudes...

 (a legume) to replace the fallow year. In addition to improving soil fertility, clover was an ideal fodder crop, so the improved grain production simultaneously increased livestock production. Farmers could grow more livestock because there was more food of higher quality, and the manure was an excellent fertilizer
Fertilizer
Fertilizer is any organic or inorganic material of natural or synthetic origin that is added to a soil to supply one or more plant nutrients essential to the growth of plants. A recent assessment found that about 40 to 60% of crop yields are attributable to commercial fertilizer use...

, so they could have even more productive crops. Charles "Turnip" Townshend
Charles Townshend, 2nd Viscount Townshend
Charles Townshend, 2nd Viscount Townshend Bt, KG, PC was a British Whig statesman. He served for a decade as Secretary of State, directing British foreign policy...

 (2nd Viscount Townshend) learned the four-field system from Flanders and introduced it to Great Britain in 1730.

Selective breeding

In England, Robert Bakewell
Robert Bakewell (farmer)
Robert Bakewell 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...

 and Thomas Coke introduced selective breeding
Selective breeding
Selective breeding is the process of breeding plants and animals for particular genetic traits. Typically, strains that are selectively bred are domesticated, and the breeding is sometimes done by a professional breeder. Bred animals are known as breeds, while bred plants are known as varieties,...

 (mating together two animals with particularly desirable characteristics), and inbreeding (the mating of close relatives, such as father and daughter, or brother and sister, to stabilize certain qualities) in order to reduce genetic diversity in desirable animals programs from the mid 18th century. Robert Bakewell cross-bred the Lincoln and Longhorn sheep to produce the New Leicester variety. These methods proved successful in the production of larger and more profitable livestock.

Technology from Flanders

The British Agricultural Revolution was sparked in part by advancements in Flanders
Flanders
Flanders is the community of the Flemings but also one of the institutions in Belgium, and a geographical region located in parts of present-day Belgium, France and the Netherlands. "Flanders" can also refer to the northern part of Belgium that contains Brussels, Bruges, Ghent and Antwerp...

, including the aforementioned four-crop rotation. Due to the large and dense population of Flanders, which forced farmers to take advantage of every inch of usable land, the country had become a pioneer in drainage and reclamation technology. Many Flemish experts went to the Dutch Republic
Dutch Republic
The Dutch Republic — officially known as the Republic of the Seven United Netherlands , the Republic of the United Netherlands, or the Republic of the Seven United Provinces — was a republic in Europe existing from 1581 to 1795, preceding the Batavian Republic and ultimately...

 (the modern-day Netherlands
Netherlands
The Netherlands is a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, located mainly in North-West Europe and with several islands in the Caribbean. Mainland Netherlands borders the North Sea to the north and west, Belgium to the south, and Germany to the east, and shares maritime borders...

) and reclaimed land there. Finally, Dutch experts like Cornelius Vermuyden
Cornelius Vermuyden
Sir Cornelius Wasterdyk Vermuyden was a Dutch engineer who introduced Dutch reclamation methods to Britain, and made the first important attempts to drain The Fens of East Anglia.-Life:...

 brought the technology to Britain.

Effects on history

Sound advice on farming began to appear in England in the mid-17th century, from writers such as Samuel Hartlib
Samuel Hartlib
Samuel Hartlib was a German-British polymath. An active promoter and expert writer in many fields, he was interested in science, medicine, agriculture, politics, and education. He settled in England, where he married and died...

, Walter Blith
Walter Blith
Walter Blith was an English writer on husbandry and an official under the Commonwealth.-Family:Blith was baptised in Allesley, Warwickshire, as the fourth and youngest son of John Blith , yeoman, a prosperous cereal and dairy farmer, and Ann, daughter of Barnaby Holbeche of Birchley Hall, Fillongley...

 and others, but the overall agricultural productivity of Britain started to grow significantly only in the period of the Agricultural Revolution. It is estimated that the productivity of wheat was about 19 bushels per acre in 1720 and that it has grown to 21-22 bushels in the middle of the eighteenth century. It declined slightly in the decades of 1780 and 1790 but it began to grow again by the end of the century and reached a peak in the 1840s around 30 bushels per acre, stabilising thereafter.

The Agricultural Revolution in Britain proved to be a major turning point in history. The population in 1750 reached the level of 5.7 million. This had happened before: in around 1350 and again in 1650. Each time, either the appropriate agricultural infrastructure to support a population this high was not present or plague or war occurred (which may have been related), a Malthusian catastrophe
Malthusian catastrophe
A Malthusian catastrophe was originally foreseen to be a forced return to subsistence-level conditions once population growth had outpaced agricultural production...

 occurred, and the population fell. However, by 1750, when the population reached this level again, an onset in agricultural technology and new methods without outside disruption, and also the effects of sugar
Sugar
Sugar is a class of edible crystalline carbohydrates, mainly sucrose, lactose, and fructose, characterized by a sweet flavor.Sucrose in its refined form primarily comes from sugar cane and sugar beet...

 imports, allowed the population growth to be sustained.

The increase in population
Population
A population is all the organisms that both belong to the same group or species and live in the same geographical area. The area that is used to define a sexual population is such that inter-breeding is possible between any pair within the area and more probable than cross-breeding with individuals...

 led to more demand from the people for goods such as clothing. A new class of landless labourers, products of enclosure, provided the basis for cottage industry, a stepping stone to the Industrial Revolution. To supply continually growing demand, shrewd businessmen began to pioneer new technology to meet demand from the people. This led to the first industrial factories
Factory
A factory or manufacturing plant is an industrial building where laborers manufacture goods or supervise machines processing one product into another. Most modern factories have large warehouses or warehouse-like facilities that contain heavy equipment used for assembly line production...

. People who once were farmer
Farmer
A farmer is a person engaged in agriculture, who raises living organisms for food or raw materials, generally including livestock husbandry and growing crops, such as produce and grain...

s moved to large cities to get jobs in the factories. The British Agricultural Revolution not only made the population increase possible, but also increased the yield per agricultural worker, meaning that a larger percentage of the population could no longer work in agriculture but could and/or had to work in these new, post-Agricultural Revolution jobs.

The British Agricultural Revolution was the cause of drastic changes in the lives of British women. Before the Agricultural Revolution, women worked alongside their husbands in the fields and were an active part of farming. The increased efficiency of the new machinery, along with the fact that this new machinery was often heavier and difficult for a woman to work, made this unnecessary and impractical, and women were relegated to other roles in society. To supplement the family's income, many went into cottage industries. Others became domestic servants or were forced into professions such as prostitution
Prostitution
Prostitution is the act or practice of providing sexual services to another person in return for payment. The person who receives payment for sexual services is called a prostitute and the person who receives such services is known by a multitude of terms, including a "john". Prostitution is one of...

. The new, limited roles of women, dubbed by one historian as "this defamation of women workers", (Valenze) fuelled prejudices of women only being fit to work in the home, and also effectively separated them from the new, mechanised areas of work, leading to a divide in the pay between men and women.

Towards the end of the 19th century, the substantial gains in British
British people
The British are citizens of the United Kingdom, of the Isle of Man, any of the Channel Islands, or of any of the British overseas territories, and their descendants...

 agricultural productivity were rapidly offset by competition from cheaper imports, made possible by advances in transportation, refrigeration, and many other technologies.

See also

  • Agricultural gang
    Agricultural gang
    Agricultural gangs historically, groups of women, girls and boys organized by an independent gang-master, under whose supervision they executed agricultural piece-work for farmers in certain parts of England...

  • Division of labour
    Division of labour
    Division of labour is the specialisation of cooperative labour in specific, circumscribed tasks and likeroles. Historically an increasingly complex division of labour is closely associated with the growth of total output and trade, the rise of capitalism, and of the complexity of industrialisation...

  • Urbanization
    Urbanization
    Urbanization, urbanisation or urban drift is the physical growth of urban areas as a result of global change. The United Nations projected that half of the world's population would live in urban areas at the end of 2008....



Agricultural Revolutions:
  • Neolithic Revolution
    Neolithic Revolution
    The Neolithic Revolution was the first agricultural revolution. It was the transition from hunting and gathering to agriculture and settlement. Archaeological data indicates that various forms of plants and animal domestication evolved independently in 6 separate locations worldwide circa...

  • Arab Agricultural Revolution
  • Green Revolution
    Green Revolution
    Green Revolution refers to a series of research, development, and technology transfer initiatives, occurring between the 1940s and the late 1970s, that increased agriculture production around the world, beginning most markedly in the late 1960s....

The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.
 
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