By Mark Overton
This ebook is the 1st on hand survey of English agriculture among 1500 and 1850. Written particularly for college students, it combines new fabric with an research of the prevailing literature. It describes farming within the 16th century, analyzes the explanations for advancements in agricultural output and productiveness, and examines adjustments within the agrarian economic climate and society. Professor Overton argues that the impression of those comparable alterations in productiveness and social and fiscal constitution within the century after 1750 volume to an agricultural revolution.
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Extra info for Agricultural Revolution in England: The Transformation of the Agrarian Economy 1500-1850
There was a peak of work in late summer with the harvest, but there was always plenty of work during Farming in the sixteenth century 19 other seasons of the year. Pasture farmers had two seasons of peak labour demand, with lambing and calving in spring, followed by the hay harvest in early summer; but for most of the rest of the year they were free to engage in other activities if they so wished. Income flows also varied between pasture and arable farms. Pasture farmers had their working capital immediately realisable, whereas arable farmers, or at least those for whom cereals were the main cash crop, had to wait until the harvest before they could sell their crop and realise some income.
Some land, including the clay vales of southern England, could equally well be used to grow cereals, or to grow grass to feed livestock. Thus in many situations, if the market was not the major influence on what was produced, the actual mix of crops and stock was determined by local custom and tradition as well as by subsistence needs. Although the market did not have much influence over their production decisions, farmers producing at subsistence levels went to the market to buy the few necessities they needed, to sell surplus corn in a good year, and, in a poor year, to buy corn if their harvest fell below their subsistence needs.
Where subdivided fields under common rights prevailed (a commonfield system) the situation was very different. The typical farm would not consist of a contiguous group of fields or even strips, but would be composed of strips scattered throughout the subdivided fields. Farmhouses would be located in the centre of the village, and have a small area of closes attached to them for the production of vegetables and fruit, and other crops that would not fit in with the constraints of the field system, such as hemp and flax.