Skip to main content Accessibility help

Prehistoric Agriculture in Britain

  • E. Cecil Curwen

The importance of the part played by agriculture in the economic history of our country is sometimes apt to be forgotten, for its place has, during the past hundred years, been largely taken by manufacture. Down to the beginning of the nineteenth century the bulk of the population still made a living by tilling the fields, just as their fathers had done from time immemorial. It becomes, therefore, a matter of great interest to trace the beginnings and growth of agriculture in our country before the dawn of history.

Agriculture may be taken in its broadest sense to signify the artificial growth of plants for human use, as opposed to the gathering of wild products, but the term may also be narrowed down to cover only the cultivation of farinaceous seeds which we call cereals. It is chiefly in the latter sense that the subject will be discussed here, but it must be remembered that the nature of the evidence does not altogether allow of such a distinction.

Hide All


Candolle, De Origin of Cultivated Plants.
Stapf, O. History of the Wheats, Suppl. to Journ. of Board of Agriculture (June 1910), xvii.


Spurrel, F.C.J.Notes on Early Sickles,” Arch. Journ. xlix, 5368.
Munro, RobertFlint Saws versus Sickles,” Ibid. 16475.


Bennett, R. and Elton, J. History of Corn-milling, vol. i. (London and Liverpool, 1898).


Tylor, E.B. F.R.S. “Origin of the Plough and Wheel-carriage.” Journ. Anthrop. Inst. 10, 749.
Rau, C.H. Geschichte des Pfluges (1845).
Behlen, H. Der Pflug und das Pflügen bei den Römern und in Mitteleuropa in vorge-schichtliche Zeit (Dillenburg, 1904).


Blaker, Reginald Sussex Arch. Coll. 45, 198203.
Toms, H.S.The Problem of Ancient Cultivations,” The Antiquary, Nov. 1911, 41117.
Crawford, O.G.S. Geograph. Journ. 61, 34266.
Crawford, O.G.S. Air–Survey and Archaeology. (Ordnance Survey professional papers, N.s. no. 7, 1924).
Curwen, Eliot and Curwen, E. CecilSussex Lynchets and their associated Field-ways,” Sussex Arch. Coll. 64, 165.


Curtler, W.H.R. A Short History of English Agriculture (Oxford, 1909).
Gray, H.L. English Field Systems, Harvard Historical Studies, vol. 22. (Cambridge, Mass., 1915, Milford).
Hanssen, G. Agrarhistorische Abhandlungen (Leipzig, 1880–4, 2 v.).
Maitland, F.W. Domesday Book and Beyond (Camb. 1921), “Measures and Fields,” 36299.
Meitzen, A. Siedelung und Agrarwesen der Westgermanen und Oestgermanen, der Kelten, Römer, Finnen und Slawen (Berlin, 1895, 3 v. and atlas).
Nasse, E. On the Agricultural Community of the Middle Ages, and Enclosures of the Sixteenth Century in England, trans. by Ouvry, H.A. (London, 1872.
Pell, O.C.A New View of the Geldable Unit of Assessment of Domesday,” Domesday Studies, part I. (1888), 227385.
Schlüter, O. Siedlungskunde des Thaies der Unstrul von der sachlenbürger Pforte bis zur Mündung (Halle, 1896).
Seebohm, F. The English Village Community (London, 1883); Customary Acres and their Historical Importance (London, 1914).
Slater, G. The English Peasantry and the Enclosure of the Common Fields (London, 1907).
Vinogradoff, P. Villeinage in England (Oxford, 1892). English Society in the Eleventh Century (Oxford, 1908).
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

  • ISSN: 0003-598X
  • EISSN: 1745-1744
  • URL: /core/journals/antiquity
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed