Agriculture and the Land

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Agricultural Revolution Review McKay

Agriculture and the Land

  • except for Holland, almost everyone lived in countryside and agricultural area

  • land difficult= low output

  • 16th/17th c poor harvests

  • Famine foods

    • Chestnuts, bark, etc

  • Made people weak and vulnerable to disease

    • Smallpox, influenza

Open field system

  • divided land to be cultivated by peasants in a village

  • exhaustion of soil problem

    • nitrogen in soil depleted

    • only way for land to recover was field to lie fallow

  • open meadows

    • common land- set aside primarily for draft horses + oxen

  • gleaning of grain

    • The Gleaners by Millet 19th c painting

    • Everything to survive

  • In age of absolutism meant high taxes

  • Peasants in eastern Europe worse off

  • W. Europe social conditions better

    • Free of serfdom

    • But privileges of wealthy relied on people

Agricultural Revolution

  • uncultivated fields key

  • mid 17th c

  • certain crops allowed for productivity

    • beans, peas, potatoes, turnips

    • crop rotation 18th c

    • new crops ideal feed for animals: more meat: better diet

  • enclosure: necessary for technological growth

    • when poor could avoid enclosure they did so

  • leadership of low countries

Leadership of Low Countries and England

  • middle of 17th c

  • additional: ship-building, commerce, navigation

  • densely populated

    • forced to seek maximum yields from land

  • growth of towns and cities in LC

  • growth of urban population provided Dutch peasants w/ good markets

  • drainage and water control: English

  • large parts of 17th c. Holland had once been sea + marshes so they had to learn drainage

  • famous Dutch engineer: Cornelius Vermuyden

    • drainage project in Yorkshire and Cambridgeshire

    • drained swamps to make good land

  • Viscount Charles Townsend [1674-1738]

    • Pioneer in English agricultural improvement

    • Turnips: drained, manure, sow, w/o fallow= larger crops= higher income

  • 1740 aristocracy for agricultural improvement eager

  • Jethro Tull [1674-1741]

    • Tried to develop better methods through empirical research

    • Advocated sowing seed with drilling equipment

  • Selective breeding of ordinary livestock showed improvement

  • By 1870 English farmers produced 300 % more than 1700

Cost of Enclosure

  • 1700: distinctive pattern of land ownership and production

    • At one end was the few large landowners the other was mass of landless cottagers

    • The in between was the small independent peasant farmers who owned land and also the tenant farmers who rented land from landowners, hired wage laborers, and sold output on cash market

  • Growth of tenant farmers led to more markets

    • fenced fields, built drains, improved soil with $$ from landowners

    • increased opportunities

    • new methods of farming required more care so it’s argued that enclosure movement didn’t take away jobs

  • but by eliminating this common land they took away rights of peasants, however it led to rise of market-oriented estate agriculture and emergence of landless rural proletariat

  • by 1815 small group of wealthy English held most of land, leased holdings through agents to middle size farmers who in turn relied on landless laborers for workforce

    • protelariatazation

II. Population Explosion

Limitations on Population Growth

  • until 1700 population of Europe grew slowly and cyclical patterns

  • 16th c 2nd great population surge after 1500

    • Meant less food per person and decrease in living standards

    • Population too much for resources

  • So population slowed in 1600’s

New Pattern of 18th c

  • 18th c Europe population increased especially after 1750

  • Fewer deaths

  • Bubonic plague disappeared

    • Brown rat and flea

  • Most important advance in medicine was smallpox inoculation in England

  • Improvements in water supply and sewerage [promoted by absolutist monarchs] resulted in better public health and reduced insects

  • Thus public health helped with population growth

  • 18th c canal and road building in w Europe

    • w/ advance in transportation meant less impact for local crop failure and famine

  • new foods introduced

  • population grew b/c death rates less catastrophic [famines, disease, war]

  • but renewed population growth in 18th c meant imbalance between people + economic opportunities

III. Growth of Cottage Industry

  • rural industry or domestic industry

  • in contrast to middle Ages peasants then made goods in urban craft guilds and urban merchants

  • 18th c rural poverty and landless proletariat overwhelming those guilds so a new industry developed

  • Putting-out system

Putting out system

  • merchant capitalist and rural worker

    • the merchant loaned: or “put out” raw materials to cottage workers who then made the product then returned it

    • lots of spins on this: example: sometimes rural worker would buy own material and work as independent producer before selling to merchant

    • sometimes they would work in groups

  • but in all cases it was a type of capitalism

    • merchants needed large amounts of capital, which they got in form of goods being worked up and sold to distant markets

    • sought to make profit and increase capital

  • because there was so much unemployment people would work for low wages

    • also it was unregulated so either side could change procedure

    • did not need to meet guild standard [which maintained quality but discouraged new methods] so it became capable of producing many types of goods

  • did not spread across Europe at even rate

    • first appeared in England and successful there, especially for textile industry

    • by 1500 half of England’s textile produced in countryside

    • 1700 English industry more rural than urban

  • In France at time of Louis XIV Colbert revived urban guild and used them to control city and collect taxes

    • But rural poverty too great: 1762 special privileges of urban manufacturing severely restricted in France

    • So gov’t in France believed way to help poor was to encourage growth of cottage manufacturing

  • Gov’t in Germany and LC also reduced power of guilds in countryside

  • So second half of 1700’s saw growth of rural industry in certain densely populated regions

Textile Industry

  • linen, wool, cloth etc

  • lived in small cottage with a loom being most important

  • John Kay invention of flying shuttle early 18th c

  • Family enterprise

    • But imbalance: work of 4 – 5 spinners needed to keep one weaver steadily employed so wife and husband kept having to find more threat and spinners

    • Widows and “spinsters” or unmarried women

  • Relations between worker and employers strained

    • English popular song helps illustrate this in 1700 with getting wages by “grinding the poor…although we do get it with many a curse”

    • Constant problems over weight of material and quality of cloth

  • Also problems from merchant point of view

    • Rural labor was cheap and poorly organized so it was hard to control

    • Paid on Saturday afternoon, cottage working men would relax “Holy Monday”

IV. Building of the Atlantic Economy

  • world trade in 18th c

  • Spain and Portugal revived empires

  • But Netherlands, France, and GB benefited most

Mercantilism and Colonial Wars

  • mercantilism was system of economic regulations aimed at increasing power of state

    • particularly to increase country’s stock of gold as seen with Colbert under Louis XIV

  • English mercantilism: idea that gov’t economic regulations could and should serve private interests of individuals as well as public needs of state

  • Josiah Child: wealthy director of East India Company: “Profit and Power ought jointly to be considered”

    • By contrast: France and other countries mercantilists put needs of state first

  • Navigation Acts in 1651

    • Oliver Cromwell established them and the restored monarchy of Charles II extended them in 1660 and 1663

    • But not modified until 1786

    • It said that goods imported from Europe into England and Scotland be carried on British-owned ships

    • These laws gave British merchants and ship-owners basically a monopoly on trade with British colonies

    • Colonists required to ship product on British ships and buy all European goods from them

    • Used to increase military power and private wealth

    • Form of economic warfare: target was Dutch who were ahead of English in shipping and foreign trade in 1650s and successful in it with three Anglo-Dutch wars between 1652-1674

    • 1664: “New York” was once New Amsterdam

  • France next rival

    • Had natural resources, 3x bigger population, allied with Spain, military power

    • 1701-1763 series of wars for leading maritime power

  • War of Spanish Succession

    • Started when Louis XIV declared willingness to accept Spanish crown willed to his son: which would upset continental power

    • Union of France and Spain threatened to destroy British colonies in North America

    • Louis XIV forced into Peace of Utrecht [1713]

  • War of Austrian Succession [1740-1748]

    • Frederick the Great of Prussia seized Silesia from Austria’s Maria Theresa, eventually became world war that included Anglo-French conflicts in India and North America

  • Seven Years War [1756-1763]

    • In central Europe Maria Theresa tried to win back Silesia and re-establish Habsburg traditional leadership in German affairs

    • Fighting began in NA

    • British used sea power to destroy French fleet

    • 1759 combined British naval and land force defeated French forces

  • Treaty of Paris [1763] where French lost all possessions on mainland of NA and gave up Louisiana to Spain as compensation for their loss of Florida to Britain

    • French also gave up most of holdings in India [Britain influence]

Land and Labor in British America

  • settlers in NA benefited from virtually free and unlimited land

  • contrast with American colonies and British Isles

  • cheap land and huge demand for scarce labor power led to slavery

  • Portuguese and Spanish introduced slavery in Americas 16th c

  • 17th c Dutch followed and transported thousands of Africans to Brazil and then Caribbean w/ sugar plantations

  • British adoption of slavery in NA meant new class of rich plantation owners

    • Black slaves overwhelming majority of population in Caribbean colonies

    • By 1700 spread to Virginia lowlands

    • 1730 plantations entirely worked by slaves

    • Increase in tobacco production between 1700 and 1774 created wealthy class of plantation owners in Maryland and Virginia

    • 1790 when U.S. population about 4 million, blacks almost 20 %

  • English mercantilist system benefited American colonists

    • Exported food to West Indies to feed slaves and sugar and tobacco to Britain

  • Population of NA colonies grew quickly during 18th c and living standards high

Growth of Foreign Trade

  • growing and wealthy agricultural populations of mainland colonies gave expanding market for English goods

  • England relied heavily on textile [1700: only export and 90 percent to Europeans]

  • Colonies of the Atlantic economy helped

So the mercantilist system formed in 17th c [1600s] to attack Dutch had remarkable success in 1700s and concentrated trade

Pressure of demand from 3 continents on cottage industry heightened efforts of English merchant capitalists to find better ways to produce more goods

Revival in Colonial Latin America

  • Philip V [1700-1746 r] brought men and new ideas and rallied Spanish people in the War of Spanish Succession

  • Revitalization in Madrid positive for colonies where they defended themselves from British attacks and increased size

  • Silver mining recovered in Mexico and Peru

  • Trade grew though industry remained weak

  • Creoles: people of Spanish blood born in America who were better off in trading

  • Wanted to be a European aristocracy and forced native Americans to be the peasants debt peonage from 1600 on which was form of serfdom

  • Middle group was mestizos, offspring of Spanish men and Indian women

Adam smith and Economic Liberalism

  • reaction against mercantilism

  • independent merchants campaigned for “free trade”

  • Adam Smith [1723-1790]

    • Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of Wealth of Nations [1776] established basics for modern economics

    • Did NOT like mercantilism b/c he said gov’t unfair

    • Free trade or laissez faire

    • One of Enlightenment thinkers and relied on reason

    • Pursuit of self-interest would lead to harmony and progress “invisible hand”

    • Economic liberalism


Agriculture began showing modest improvement, first in LC then in England. Plague disappeared; population grew, encouraging growth of wage labor, cottage industry, and merchant capitalism.

Europeans also continued overseas expansion, particularly with holdings in America. Spain revived and Latin American colonies participated fully in expansion. England was the most successful and concentrated growing Atlantic trade in their hands. By the 1770s England was approaching economic breakthrough.

1650-1790: Growing of Atlantic economy

1650-1850 Agricultural improvement and revolution

1651-1663: British Navigation Acts

1652-1674: Anglo-Dutch wars; rise of British mercantilism

1690-1780: Enlightenment

1700-1790: Height of Atlantic slave trade and expansion of rural industry in Europe

1701-1713: War of Spanish Succession

1701-1763: Mercantilist wars of empire

1720-1789: Growth of European population

1721-1722: Last of Bubonic plague

1740-1748: War of Austrian Succession

1750-1790: Rise of economic liberalism

1756-1763: Seven Years War

1759: Fall of Quebec

1760-1815: Height of parliamentary enclosure in England

1776: Smith Wealth of Nations

1807: British slave trade abolished

Timeline with Bible

1712: Newcomen steam engine used to pump water from coal mine

1733: John Kay invents flying shuttle

1764: James Hargreaves invents spinning jenny

1769: Richard Arkwright patents water frame

James Watt patents a more efficient version of the Newcomen steam engine

1779: Samuel Crompton perfects spinning mule

1784: Arthur young establishes Annals of Agriculture

1785: Edmund Cartwright patents a power loom

1793: Eli Whitney cotton gin

1807: Robert Fulton steamboat, the Clermont goes in service Hudson River

1830: George Stephenson’s locomotive the Rocket operates on Liverpool to Manchester railroad

1834: Cyrus McCormick patents reaper

1836: Samuel F.B. Morse invents telegraph

1840: Samuel Cunard beings regular transatlantic steamship passenger service

1856: Henry Bessemer develops Bessemer converter

1859: first commercially successful oil well is drilled in Pennsylvania

1879: telephone invented by Alexander Graham Bell

1879: Thomas Edison invents incandescent light bulb

1903: Wright Brothers airplane

Agricultural Revolution

During 18th and 19th c the pace of agricultural revolution quickened. Development of scientific agriculture, introduction of new crops, enclosure movement, and increasing mechanization expanded agricultural production and ended famine in Europe meaning bigger population. Few farm workers needed to produce food for Europe’s growing population and this led to flock to cities.

  • important: preceded Industrial Revolution and after Glorious Revolution [potential essay question]

Development of Scientific Agriculture

Influence of Tull and Townshend

  • 1700: Tull developed drilling for sowing seeds

  • Viscount Townshend, a 18th c aristocrat and statesman

  • Think turnips: increased cultivation of turnips ended need for mass slaughter of livestock during winter

Advances in Livestock and Agricultural Techniques

  • later in 18th c Robert Bakewell introduced scientific breeding of cattle and sheep

  • Arthur Young effective publicist for new methods of scientific agriculture and founded periodical annals of Agriculture in 1784

  • Early in 1800s German agricultural scientists succeeded in getting sugar from beets, ending Europe’s dependence on imported cane sugar

Inventions of Farm Machinery

  • reaper, patented by McCormick [1809-1884] an American, in 1834, represented leap toward application of technology to agriculture

New Crops

  • potato, originated in Western Hemisphere basic food of Ireland by 1750s

  • peas and beans introduced from Netherlands

Enclosure movement

  • resulted in increase in number of large and medium sized farms as well as increase in production of food and other agricultural products

  • so they went to industrial towns to find employment

How does the Agricultural Revolution fit with SPICE?

Social cottage industry meant beginning of nuclear family

Gender- better education access to books and domestic role + finances

Rural vs urban cities and factories

Technological cotton Gin with plantations in colonies

Oxen and selective breeding

Flying shuttle

Open fields system three field crop rotation

Economic more supply of good food

Lack of free market Adam Smith

However with enclosure movement meant rise of tenant farmers and market-oriented agriculture

Unemployment on the farm people move to cities

Political end of serfdom

Absolute monarchs

Population increase

McKay Questions Quiz

  1. Tenant farmers social group on which the success of English agricultural revolution depended on

  2. major reason for disappearance of bubonic plague was brown rat’s displacement of black rat

  3. by 1800 Russia had the largest population in Europe

  4. in 1790 blacks made up about 20 percent of U.S. population

  5. French gov’t tried to improve living standards for poor by encouraging growth of cottage manufacturing

  6. Shortcomings of putting out system all except enforcing quotes?

  7. spinster: unmarried woman who spun for a living

  8. plantations in Virginia by 1730 were worked entirely by African slaves

  9. typically the putting out industry employed rural families

  10. Philip V led the revitalization of Spain in 18th c

  11. Holy Monday was day of relaxation

  12. Navigation Acts form of economic warfare that targeted Dutch

  13. Early public health measures that may have helped reduce death rates in 18th c included all of following except discovery of effective vaccine against bubonic plague

  14. Mestizos offspring of Spanish men and Indian women

  15. Decisive round in colonial conflict between England and France was Seven Years War [confiscation of French colonies in India and Canada]

5-steps to a 5

Summary: in the 18th c- new wealth from overseas trade transformed European society and created territorial rivalries between European states

  • Development of triangle of trade connected Europe, the Americas, and Africa created large amounts of new wealth in European economy

  • Development of market-oriented agriculture and cottage industries broke traditional checks on European population growth and economic productivity

  • Increased wealth led rulers of European states to attempt to expand territorial holdings through war and diplomacy

Key terms:

  • Triangle trade

  • Middle Passage

  • Manorial system

  • Cash crops

  • Enclosure

  • Cottage industry

  • Putting-out system

  • Flying shuttle

  • Spinning jenny

  • Cotton gin

  • Pragmatic Sanction

  • War of Austrian Succession

  • Diplomatic Revolution

  • Seven Years War


  • GB and somewhat France surpassed Spain, Portugal and Holland as economic powers in Europe

  • Controlled majority of triangle trade

  • The resulting wealth set in motion innovations that radically changed European agricultural and manufacturing production [social]

  • Competition between Britain and France led to innovations in diplomacy and war

Triangle Trade

  • Manufactured goods [primarily guns and gin] exported from Europe to Africa

  • Slaves exported to NA, SA, and Caribbean colonies

  • Raw Materials [furs, timber, tobacco, rice, cotton, coffee, rum, and sugar] exported from colonies to Europe in exchange for slaves and manufactured goods

  • 18th c expansion of European colonies greatly increased demand for slaves and reoriented salve trade to west

  • Transportation of African slaves across Atlantic on European trade ship known as Middle Passage

Breaking Traditional Cycle of Population and Productivity

  • the resulting wealth from colonies led to pressure for social change affecting whole population

  • population and productivity rose together

  • but the agricultural yield would reach a maximum amount given the land available and methods used

  • so the population would rise but number of people outstripped this agricultural yield meaning food would become scarce and expensive

  • then this meant a declining population

  • then cycle began again

  • so 18th c developments broke this cycle

    • market-oriented agriculture

    • rural manufacturing spread capital throughout population

    • increased demand led to technical innovation

  • the market orientation created shift from farming to reliance on imported food sold at markets

  • introduction of rural manufacture put large amounts of currency into system and made the working population less dependent on land

Market Oriented Agriculture

  • rise in population

  • colonial empire of trade created wealthy merchant class

  • result was destruction of manorial system where land-owning elites held estates with serfs

  • replaced by market-oriented agriculture where cash crops grown for sale and export

  • shift to cash crops led to reorganization of social structure

    • traditional land-owning elites left feudal obligations and adopted merchant class outlook

    • cash crops demanded larger fields and landowners responded by creating enclosure to close out peasantry

Rural Manufacturing

  • increase in population also meant greater demand for clothes and other necessities of life

  • textile industry

  • 18th c merchants had to find way around rigid guild system and the result was system of rural manufacturing known as cottage industry or putting out industry

  • Cottage industry replaced urban guilds

  • New system of rural manufacturing with market-oriented agriculture; destruction of manorial system could not have been accomplished if cash flowing into economy had not found way into rural population

  • Creation of cottage industry provided cash enabling rural families to buy food

  • Enclosure also meant people lost land and social status

Technical Innovation in Agriculture and Manufacturing

  • ever-growing population and demand for food and goods in 18th c created need for technical innovations

  • replacement of old three-field system with new crops such as clover, turnips, and potato

  • 1733: John Kay invented flying shuttle which doubled speed at which cloth would be woven on loom

  • 1760s Hargreaves invented spinning jenny increasing amount of thread a single spinner could produce from cotton [created need to speed up harvest of cotton]

  • 1793 Eli Whitney invented cotton gin


  • 18th c Britain and France dominated triangle trade

  • Created capital and served as spur for population growth making agricultural revolution and rural manufacturing

  • Destroyed old systems of manorialism [economic] and feudalism [social]


Agricultural Revolution: progressive elimination of fallow including new technical innovations in mid 17th c and the new ways for farming more productive than traditional ways

Putting Out System: new form of industrial production in 18th c sparking renewed interest in Europe’s early industrial development and way around guilds

Mestizos: large middle group in Spanish colonies and children of Spanish men and Indian women in 18th and 19th c who strove to be a European aristocracy

Cottage industry: domestic industry: way around guilds with production of goods in home and family enterprise in 17th 18th c

Famine foods: chestnuts, grass, rabbit food in 18th c due to famine and showed need for better agriculture and technological innovations

Navigation Acts: way of economic warfare against Dutch and required most goods imported from Europe into England and Scotland be carried on British owned ships and 1651: created 1786: modified which gave British merchants a virtual monopoly on trade

Economic liberalism: belief of free market and individuals should pursue economic interests in 18th c Adam Smith

Enclosure: people closing individual part of common land in 17th and 18th c  price of technical progress took away common rights and created proletariat willing to work for low wages [industrial revolution]

Common Land: open meadows for hay and natural pasture in 17th/18th c and gave people common rights

Mercantilism: system of economic regulations aimed to increase power of state in 17th c

Creoles: people of Spanish blood born in America and strove to be genuine European aristocracy think debt peonage

Proletarianization: transformation of large number of small peasant farmers into landless rural wage earners caused by enclosure movement and led to market-oriented agriculture

Debt peonage: form of serfdom used to increase power of Creoles

Crop rotation: new pattern of farming involving alternating # of grain, root, etc on certain schedules which helped eliminate fallow and productively rejuvenated soil to give more produce one aspect of growth of AR

Open-field system: 17th c but greatest medieval accomplishment in village farming where land was divided and shared by peasants

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