How far was agriculture transformed between 1625-88?


How far was agriculture transformed between 1625-88?


  • Changes in agricultural techniques - significant change. E.g. enclosure = the fencing off of land for the sole use of a single landowner or tenant farmer. This improved the efficiency of production as there was less duplication of crops, and Charles I often enclosed land himself in order to raise crown funds; however, this was not a transformation, as enclosure had begun under Elizabeth I, however its use was intensified in the 17th century. Also, there was the importation of new crops like clover and cabbage, which enriched the soil to produce higher crop yields, and common vegetables like potatoes and asparagus, which improved the people's quality of life and the farmer's capacity to sell as they had higher availability of vegetables. A key crop was the frost resistant turnip from the Netherlands, which enabled many to survive during the cold winters, for example the mini ice age of 1675. Another e.g. is improved farming techniques; increased literacy meant that yeomen could read about them, for example Walter Blith wrote about improving drainage and the use of manure. As understanding grew, farmers were able to suit certain crops to different soil types, improving yield and crop efficiency. Furthermore, improved crop rotation meant that less land was left fallow - 1.8 million acres in 1700 compared to 3 million in 1420. Dutch immigrants also advised on new techniques used in the Netherlands, for example Cornelius Vermuyden drained the fens of East Anglia for agricultural use - but not complete transformation overall as they still used old techniques, e.g. water meadows had been used since 1525, but its used expanded dramatically in the 17th century
  • Growth of specialised farming - transformed. Because of this better understanding via literature, farmers were able to farm by region according to local conditions e.g. the South East was better for arable farming, whilst the North West was better for pastoral farming. As infrastructure improved and towns like London grew, the demands increased and so farmers nearby were able to specialise in order to meet these demands by growing different crops as required; this was assisted by the new growth of roads in and out of London. Yeomen benefitted the most from specialisation, as they could afford to take the risk by closing off a small part of their land to test for benefit, whereas husbandmen were often less successful as they produced too little a yield to make a substantial profit
  • Development of national markets - significant change. The increased demands of London and the growth of agricultural techniques caused the rapid expansion of national markets during the period. E.g. shipments of grain to London doubled between 1605-61, and the growth of crops like hops hemp assisted the growth of industries in brewing and rope making. The investment in roads seen above also boosted markets; pre-1660, this had been the responsibility of local parishes, however now the landowners and merchants had something to gain - this links to the 1663 Turnpike Act, which allowed merchants and businessmen to run toll roads and use the money they earned to reinvest. there was also an increase in navigable rivers to assist this; the river Thames, Ouse and Severn were all dredged and widened to assist this. The growth of communication also facilitated specialisation, as farmers knew what to produce and how much e.g. Wiltshire came to specialise in cheese, which was sold throughout Britain. This meant hat, compared to in 1625, when goods could only be bought from the markets in different towns, by 1688 there were shops throughout the country offering a wide range of goods. Whilst it was not transformed, as goods were still bought in similar ways and places like London had been market towns (e.g. for cloth) prior to this, the quality of life of ordinary people improved as there were more goods available, and for the merchants who grew economically as a class - some now had wealth comparable to the gentry


  • Capital investment - some change, but only affected those who were investing or being invested in. Investment was necessary for farmers to take risks i.e. enabled them to test and invest in new crops on land they bought and enclosed from neighbouring farms. The higher gentry and aristocracy tended to invest in large scale modernisation, because they knew that they would receive a long-term pay-out, whereas the yeomen didn't have the financial means to do this. Large landowners increasingly charged tenant farmers higher rents for board, which they used to reinvest - this decreased the position of the farmers whilst helping make the gentry class wealthier. Investment also included road and river improvements, in order to assist the transport and sale of goods at regional markets - this in turn boosted the growth of national markets, as it was easier to transport goods for merchants to trade with


Very significant change - though not transformed- the agricultural revolution occurred a century later, c.1750 - the main change between techniques then and techniques now


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