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Journal Article

Yields Per Acre in English Agriculture, 1250-1860: Evidence from Labour Inputs

Gregory Clark
The Economic History Review
New Series, Vol. 44, No. 3 (Aug., 1991), pp. 445-460
Published by: Wiley on behalf of the Economic History Society
DOI: 10.2307/2597538
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2597538
Page Count: 16

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Topics: Wheat, Grains, Crops, Crop harvesting, Crop economics, Mowing, Threshing, Agriculture, Livestock farms, Oats
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Yields Per Acre in English Agriculture, 1250-1860: Evidence from Labour Inputs
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Abstract

There is much uncertainty about the path of crop yields in England between 1450 and 1884. Using piece rate payments it is possible to estimate the relative amount of time it took workers to perform various agricultural tasks from 1250 onwards. The time required to reap an acre of wheat increased by 71 percent from 1250 to 1860 relative to the time required to thresh a bushel of grain. The increase in relative labour inputs implies higher grain yields, and we can use this information to estimate when wheat yields increased. Until 1600 yields seem to have been little above medieval levels, but between then and 1700 yields increased by about 5 bushels per acre. From 1700 to 1800 there was a further yield increase of about 6 bushels per acre, but from 1800 to 1860 wheat yields increased by only about 3 bushels per acre. Meadow yields do not seem to have changed from 1560 to 1892.

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