Agriculture (1575-1625)

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Agriculture

Wheat

Agriculture is a integral part of the economy of a country. The Agricultural Revolution in England was a period of rapid and sweeping change that helped bring England into the modern world. [1] Many historians debate the time of the English Agricultural Revolution. Some historians believe the years from around 1750 to 1850 were the dates of the revolution, whereas other historians believe the centuries before constituted the Agricultural Revolution. [2] The Agricultural Revolution in England was driven by a few main factors. The transition from the feudal to the landleasing method of land ownership, the rise of the wool trade and the subsequent rise of land enclosure, and the use of turnips and radishes in fallow lands all allowed fewer farmers to grow more food. [3]

Land Ownership Changes

During the Middle Ages, land in England and Europe was owned by King or other noble. Many peasants worked on the noble's land, and in return for working the land, they were allowed to keep a small portion of the crop they farmed. This type of land ownership contract between the nobles and his serfs was called feudalism. Feudalism was a decent form of land government for villages or even small towns, however when cities began growing and developing, a new form of land ownership arose. This new form of land ownership was called leaseholding. [4] Leaseholding encouraged the farmers working the land to increase the yield per acre. Instead of the peasant keeping a specified share of the crop and the noble keeping the majority of the crop, the noble kept a constant specified share of the crop and the peasant was allowed to keep any excess crop for profit. [5] This in turn gave the farmers an incentive to increase crop yields, which led to the discovery and implementation of new farming methods and the use of new crops.

Sheep and Land Enclosure

Enclosed Land
Land Enclosure

The increase of city populations in Elizabethan times led to a booming wool trade. [6] The traditional method of raising sheep was with shepherds herding the sheep across rolling fields until the sheep were ready to be slaughtered or sheared. During the Elizabethan Era, farmers realized that if they fenced off their land and kept the sheep grazing in a defined area, they eliminated the need for a shepherd and also retained the valuable manure the sheep produced. This land enclosure was illegal during the days of feudalism, however with the rise of the capitalist farming structure, the laws changed to allow land enclosure [7] The huge amounts of fertile manure available from land enclosure allowed farms to grow rapidly.

Use of Fallow Land

Fallow land is land that is swampy or otherwise unsuitable for growing crops. During the Elizabethan Era, farmers discovered that turnips and radishes thrive in fallow land and convert the fallow land to land suitable for growing other crops. This discovery was the precursor to the discovery of Nitrogen fixation in the mid 1800s. [8]

Impact of the Agricultural Revolution during the Elizabethan Era

The immediate impact of the Agricultural Revolution was the increase in food production. Fewer farmers were now required to till the same amount of land, and the populations of farming villages began to decrease. People began moving to the cities, and took specialized artisan or trade jobs. As it is shown throughout history, the increased concentration of people in cities increases the amount of inventions that the city produces. [9] The inventions produced were engine technologies, sewing technologies, mass production technologies, and sweatshops. These collectively were known as the Industrial Revolution and brought England to technological and military dominance that it enjoyed during the Victorian Era. Whether the British Agricultural Revolution began in the Elizabethan Era or later is still up to debate, however the changes that began during the Elizabethan Era undoubtedly culminated in the Industrial Revolution in the 19th century.

Notes

  1. Agricultural Revolution, 42
  2. Agricultural Revolution, 43, Agricultural Revolution in England 1500 - 1850
  3. Agricultural Revolution, 42, England: Early Modern Period, 206, Agricultural Revolution in England 1500- 1850, Elizabethan Village Life, Elizabethan Agriculture
  4. Agricultural Revolution: Europe, England: Early Modern Period
  5. England: Early Modern Period, 42
  6. Elizabethan Agriculture, Elizabethan Village Life, Elizabethan Food and Drink, England: Early Modern Period, 206-207, Agricultural Revolution, 42
  7. England: Early Modern Period
  8. Agricultural Revolution in England 1500-1850
  9. Guns, Germs, and Steel

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