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The First Green Revolution: The Growth of Production and Productivity in European Agriculture, 1870-1914

J. L. van Zanden
The Economic History Review
New Series, Vol. 44, No. 2 (May, 1991), pp. 215-239
Published by: Wiley on behalf of the Economic History Society
DOI: 10.2307/2598294
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2598294
Page Count: 25
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The First Green Revolution: The Growth of Production and Productivity in European Agriculture, 1870-1914
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Abstract

European agriculture in 1870 was characterized by large differences in production per hectare and per head of the agricultural population. These differences resulted from different factor endowments and from different levels of agricultural productivity, which were closely related to the level of development of the entire economy. Technological progress in agriculture in the period 1870-1914 was characterized by a strong land-saving bias. The most important innovations were chemical fertilizers, concentrated feeds, the mechanical cream separator, and, in the field of marketing, the cooperative movement. All these innovations tended to strengthen the position of small family farms. In spite of rapidly rising real wages, the growth of agricultural productivity was connected with a rise in the labour intensity of the product mix, which was made possible by the adoption of land-saving innovations onthe small family farm. The most surprising feature of the period 1870-1914 was the stagnation of British agriculture, which in 1870 was still at the forefront of agrarian development.

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