Agriculture during the industrial revolution, 1700–1850

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Introduction British agriculture developed in a distinctive manner that made important contributions to economic growth. By the early nineteenth century, agricultural labour productivity was one third higher in England than in France, and each British farm worker produced over twice as much as his Russian counterpart (Bairoch 1965; O’Brien and Keyder 1978; Wrigley 1985; Allen 1988, 2000). Although the yield per acre of grains was no higher in Britain than in other parts of north-western Europe, the region as a whole reaped yields twice those in most other parts of the world (Allen and O’Gráda 1988; Allen 1992.) Most accounts of British farming link the high level of efficiency to Britain’s peculiar agrarian institutions. In many parts of the continent, farms were small, operated by families without hired labour and often owned by their cultivators. Farms often consisted of strips scattered in open fields, and animals were often grazed on commons. Peasant farming of this sort was consolidated by the French Revolution. In contrast, in Britain, the open fields were enclosed, farm size increased and tenancy became general. While this transformation had been underway since the middle ages, it reached its culmination during the industrial revolution. Furthermore, it is often claimed that the agrarian transformation made important contributions to industrialisation by increasing output and supplying the industrial economy with labour and capital.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Cambridge Economic History of Modern Britain Volume 1
Subtitle of host publicationIndustrialisation, 1700-1860
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages21
ISBN (Electronic)9781139053853
ISBN (Print)0521820367, 9780521820363
StatePublished - Jan 1 2004

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Arts and Humanities


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