Agricultural revolution

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

As agricultural revolution or agrarian revolution is generally refers to a transformation of previously existing agricultural structures. Such a development is often accompanied by a change in agricultural and political conditions, which may be accompanied by a reallocation of ownership.

The term is used more or less extensively by different authors with reference to the economic developments that began around 10,000 BC. With the Neolithic Revolution , and those that took place in medieval Europe from the 8th century through the introduction of the three-field economy . The term is also applied to changes in agriculture in the 18th century that affected the states of Central Europe and their surroundings. This development can be traced back to the previous structural change in British and Dutch agriculture, which began there earlier from 1600. Strictly speaking, however, it was only from 1700 onwards in English and from the middle of the 18th century onwards also in Central European agriculture that the phenomenon of the agricultural revolution and the associated increase in land productivity were spoken of . Due to the resulting freeing of workers in the countryside who became impoverished ( pauperism ) and moved to the cities and thus initiated the urbanization process, the agricultural revolution of the 19th century formed the basis, the prerequisite and a promoting factor for the subsequent industrialization process, in which England - as before in the agricultural revolution - also played a pioneering role. A side effect, which particularly affected the English area, was the so-called enclosure movement , the increasing privatization and containment of the common land. In many countries, including Prussia, agricultural development was accompanied by the liberation of the peasants and the lifting of feudal burdens through reforms. While this development in the German states extended over several centuries, serfdom was - at least formally - abolished in just one night in France during the French Revolution (August 5-6, 1789).

Another development, often referred to as the Agrarian Revolution, is the expropriation of the large Soviet landowners during the October Revolution ( decree on land ). The industrialization spurts that began in the agricultural sector in the middle of the 20th century are, however, usually referred to as the Green Revolution .

European Agrarian Revolution of the 18th and 19th centuries

Increased productivity through agricultural innovations

Around 1660 the great agricultural land of the United Kingdom was in the hands of a few large landowners, mostly of noble, more rarely of bourgeois descent. They leased their rural properties on a large scale to so-called farmers who, due to their dependency, were increasingly forced and at the same time endeavored to operate profitably, effectively and productively as far as possible. Therefore, they were also interested in technical innovations, which resulted in an actual increase in agricultural productivity. A similar development started a little later on the continent.

The emergence of agricultural sciences and agrochemistry as scientific disciplines

Here, as there, the increases in performance were also encouraged by the emergence of agriculture as a new scientific discipline: more and more frequently in the 19th century, agricultural science institutes were founded and agricultural studies were published that promised innovations and achievements in this very sector. Albrecht Daniel Thaer , who is considered to be the founder of the agricultural science teaching, developed the profitable crop rotation economy when he founded the first German agricultural teaching institute (so-called Thaers Garten ) and carried out scientific studies there. Alexander von Humboldt , Justus von Liebig and others, on the other hand, carried out the first agrochemical investigations and thus intensified the use of fertilizers. In this way, science also contributed to the increase in productivity.


Important features of the "agricultural revolution" that contributed to the increase in land productivity were

  • the intensification of arable farming, which has taken place since 1760 through the replacement of three- field farming by crop rotation or the so-called improved three- field farming, as well as through the cultivation of new plant varieties
  • the expansion of cultivation areas by cultivating wasteland and fallow land ( e.g. by draining swamps, clearing or draining),
  • the expansion of forage production and barn feeding throughout the year (winter barn feeding ),
  • the planned improvement of breeding and increasing the yield of the livestock ,
  • mechanization through technical inventions such as machines or tools
  • as well as the increased use of natural and agrochemical agents and the associated start of the fertilizer industry .

Intensification of cultivation methods

On the one hand, a revolutionary development on the agricultural level was the introduction of crop rotation, which, thanks to its ingenious process, in which no cultivation area remains unused, has survived to this day.

At the same time, however, the breadth of food and fodder crops that were grown increased with it. In addition to potatoes ( minced meat ), which was of particular importance as a new folk food, the range was expanded with the cultivation of sugar beet , clover , cabbage , corn , carrots , rape , hops , buckwheat and alfalfa . In other areas to which the new type of crop rotation management did not reach, the outdated three-field management was replaced by an improved form which, although more intensive use, did not allow the cultivation of the entire arable land like the crop rotation management.

The cultivation of the potato not only created a new staple food for broad sections of the population, especially for the rural poor, but it could also be used for fattening pigs, which in turn made meat products more affordable.

Manure management

Various natural fertilizers such as manure, bone meal, coal ash, urban waste or sand also increased yields.

In addition, new agrochemical agents, based on the scientific knowledge gained (see above), were introduced. Alexander von Humboldt recommended the use of guano around 1800 , while at the same time Thaddäus Haenke propagated the use of Chile nitrate . Another innovation in the agrochemical field were the discoveries of Justus von Liebig, who carried out systematic investigations for the first time and discovered superphosphates as fertilizers.


Robert Bakewell, painting by John Boultbee

In his history of British sheep farming, Philip Walling calls breeding, which dominated well into the 18th century, the "union of nobody's son with everyone's daughter." Robert Bakewell is generally considered to be the person who practiced selective breeding methods in the mid-18th century made known and brought about spectacular improvements in sheep, cattle and horse breeds. Bakewell probably had the greatest influence on sheep farming. He mainly used regional breeds to develop large-framed sheep with long, shiny fleece over a relatively short period of time. He initially improved consisting Lincolnshire Wolds originating Lincoln sheep . He used Lincoln sheep, among other things, to further develop the Leicester sheep, one of the other long-wool breeds in Great Britain. He developed the so-called New Leicester sheep from the Leicester sheep, which is also sometimes called Dishley Leicester. Before the breeding interventions, the Leicester sheep was considered to be a slow maturing sheep with a weak physique that was a poor feed processor. His breeding resulted in a hornless sheep with a straight back line and meat set that was not comparable to any other breed and reliably inherited its characteristics within a few decades. Just as Bakewell was one of the first to specifically select sheep for meat performance, he was also one of the first in Great Britain to specifically breed beef cattle. Typically, farmers kept dual or even three-purpose breeds . Cattle were kept in front of the plow and wagon not only because of their milk, but above all because of their pulling power. Their meat yield only played a subordinate role. Bakewell mated long-horned cows with a Westmoreland bull in order to finally breed the English Longhorn, also Dishley Longhorn, which above all had an outstanding meat production for its time. By 1700, the average weight of a bull was around 168 kilograms. By 1786 the weight had more than doubled and averaged 381 kilograms.


Agricultural equipment ( threshing and sowing machines ) has been continuously developed. In 1785, for example, the first cast-iron plow was patented, and in 1861 the first steam plow was invented in England. Such completely new technical inventions, however, often failed to achieve a breakthrough, and sometimes even protest campaigns were launched to curb their use as far as possible.

Privatization and Enclosure Movement

Even in the early modern period, large landowners in England grew at the expense of small farmers (see above). For this purpose, the widely scattered cultivation areas were merged and the common land (the common usable area of ​​pasture and forest) was divided and also fenced in. These enclosures became more and more common, especially in the 18th century . The consequence of this development, known as the Enclosure Movement , was that the farmers had less and less wood and grazing land for their cattle.

Consequences related to the industrial revolution: pauperism, urbanization and redundancies

In addition, they could no longer keep up with the prices of the large landowners, who were able to sell their products cheaply thanks to the agricultural innovations. These conditions, the increasing commercialization and competition, led to the structural impoverishment of the rural population and also contributed - together with the industrial developments - to the later phenomenon of pauperism . Most of them now sold their modest property, were employed by the large landowners as farm workers or migrated to the cities in the hope of better living conditions ( sheep eat men ) to find new employment as wage laborers. The increasing use of machines was also a reason for the unemployment and emigration of the farmers, combined with farm deaths . In the thus enlarged possessions, agricultural production was increased through various innovations.

The emigration of many people to the cities ( urbanization ), which was brought about by the Agrarian Revolution and the Enclosure Movement, was a prerequisite for the subsequent industrialization process. In addition, due to the freeing of labor in the cities, there was enough manpower for industry.

Around 1800 around 75% of all workers in Bavaria were still employed in agriculture. The constant innovations made it possible to supply the rapidly growing urban population with sufficient food. In this respect, in addition to other factors such as improved medical care, the agricultural revolution also promoted population growth, which in the industrial age ended in the demographic revolution ( population explosion ). So the market grew, although the bulk of the population continued to live in abject poverty.

See also


Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Martin Weißenborn: The Liberalism of Mill and Bentham - Differences and Parallels. Academic publication series, GRIN Verlag 2007, ISBN 3638667960 , ISBN 9783638667968 , p. 3.
  2. Reiner Prass: Reform program and peasant interests. Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht 1997 (Volume 132 of publications by the Max Planck Institute for History, Max Planck Institute for History Göttingen), ISBN 3525354479 , ISBN 9783525354476 , p. 15.
  3. Cf. Rolf Walter: God cotton: The industrial revolution. In: Zeitverlag Gerd Bucerius (Hrsg.): DIE ZEIT world and cultural history in 20 volumes. Volume 10, p. 209: "British prosperity was based primarily on the sustained increase in agricultural production per capita [...]"
  4. ^ Werner Baumann: Agrarian Revolution. In: Historical Lexicon of Switzerland . March 23, 2011 , accessed June 13, 2019 .
  5. a b c U. Pfister: Globalization and industrialization in the 18th and 19th centuries ( Memento from March 2, 2014 in the Internet Archive ) 2008. Retrieved on January 20, 2012 at 8:30 p.m.
  6. ^ Rolf Walter: The bond to the land and feudal lordship is dissolved: The peasant liberation. In: Zeitverlag Gerd Bucerius (Hrsg.): DIE ZEIT world and cultural history in 20 volumes. Volume 10, pp. 194-207.
  7. ^ Willi Albers, Anton Zottmann: Concise Dictionary of Economics (HdWW), Volume 9, Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen, 1982, p. 74
  8. ^ Rolf Walter: The bond to the land and feudal lordship is dissolved: The peasant liberation. In: Zeitverlag Gerd Bucerius (Hrsg.): DIE ZEIT world and cultural history in 20 volumes. Volume 10, p. 196.
  9. U. Pfister: Globalization and industrialization in the 18th and 19th centuries ( memento of March 2, 2014 in the Internet Archive ) 2008. Accessed on January 20, 2012 at 8:30 pm: “At the same time, the excretions of cattle were now systematic collected u. were available as fertilizer for arable farming. "
  10. ^ Philip Walling: Counting Sheep - A Celebration of the Pastoral Heritage of Britain . Profile Books, London 2014, ISBN 978-1-84765-803-6 . P. 45
  11. ^ Robert Bakewell (1725-1795) . BBC History. Retrieved May 25, 2015.
  12. ^ Philip Walling: Counting Sheep - A Celebration of the Pastoral Heritage of Britain . Profile Books, London 2014, ISBN 978-1-84765-803-6 . P. 45 p. 46.
  13. ^ Rolf Walter: God cotton: The industrial revolution. In: Zeitverlag Gerd Bucerius (Hrsg.): DIE ZEIT world and cultural history in 20 volumes. Volume 10, p. 210: "[...] secondly, the use of triangular plows, sowing and threshing machines".
  14. ^ Helmut Rankl: Country folk and early modern state in Bavaria 1400-1800 . Commission for Bavarian State History, 1999, ISBN 3-7696-9692-1 , p. 8 .