Natura Non Fecit Saltus: The 1930s as the Discontinuity in the History of European Agriculture

Giovanni Federico

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Did the 1930s and the 1940s mark a major discontinuity in the history of agriculture in Western Europe (that is, the EU-15 plus Switzerland)? If so, what caused the discontinuity? Was it the impact of World War II, or rather of the Great Depression? And, even more importantly, how much did it matter? To address these issues, this chapter starts by comparing the e ects of World War II with those of World War I on agricultural production and finds them to be fairly similar in the short run. In the next section the attention shifts to the long-run trends, showing that the growth was drastically faster after 1950 than before the war. The following section shows that the proximate cause of this discontinuity was the acceleration in growth in total productivity related to mechanization. The next paragraph probes deeper, focusing on the agricultural policies European countries adopted to shield farmers from the e ects of the Great Depression. These measures survived the war and eventually morphed into the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). The final section concludes with some speculative remarks on the e ect of state intervention on long-run economic growth and the welfare of Europeans.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationWar, Agriculture, and Food
Subtitle of host publicationRural Europe from the 1930s to the 1950s
PublisherTaylor and Francis
Number of pages18
ISBN (Electronic)9781136327247
ISBN (Print)9780415522168
StatePublished - Jan 1 2012

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Arts and Humanities
  • General Social Sciences


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