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The Diffusion of the New Husbandry in Northern France, 1815–1840

  • George W. Grantham (a1)

This article deals with agricultural innovation in early nineteenth-century France. The core of the argument advanced is that the diffusion of the new intensive mixed husbandry in northern France was delayed by the slow growth in demand for meat and dairy products before 1840, which reduced the advantages to be gained from adopting forage-intensive crop rotations. Because the climate of southern France precluded large-scale adoption of the northern varieties of mixed husbandry, this study confines itself to the part of France lying north of the Loire, and east of the Breton peninsula. This region contained 39 percent of France's people in 1840, raised 48 percent of its wheat and 64 percent of its fodder, and produced more than 75 percent of the value of its animal production. It was already the most industrialized and wealthy section of the country.

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1 The area covered by this study includes all of the following departments: Nord, Pas-de-Calais, Somme, Oise, Aisne, Seine-et-Oise, Seine-et-Marne, Eure-et-Loir, Eure, Seine-Inferieure, Calvados, Orne, Manche, Sarthe, Mayenne, Loir-et-Cher, Loiret, Ardennes, Meuse, Meurthe, Moselle, Marne, Haute-Marne, Aube, Yonne, Côte-d'Or, Haute-Saône, Nièvre, and Cher. The percentages are calculated from Statistique Générale de la France, Statistique de la France, 1ere serie, Agriculture (Paris, 1840–1841), hereinafter referred to as Statistique agricole, 1840. Conscripts from this region were the most literate, most healthy, and the most likely to be employed in semi-industrial occupations of the young French men taken into the army in the 1820s. See Demonet, Michel, Dumont, Paul, and Ladurie, Emmanuel LeRoy, “Anthropologie de la jeunesse masculine en France au niveau d'une cartographie cantonale (1819–1830),” Annales (Economies, Sociétés, Civilisations), 31 (July-Aug. 1976), 761801.

2 See Pinchemel, Philippe, France: A Geographical Survey, trans. Trollope, Christina and Hunt, Arthur J. (New York, 1973), pp. 8285.

3 Toutain, J. C., “Le produit physique de l'agriculture francais de 1700 a 1958,” Cahiers de I.S.E.A., ser. AF 2 (Paris, 1961), table 110, pp. 128–29; Lévy-Leboyer, Maurice, “La croissance économique en France au XIXe siècle,” Annales (E.S.C.), 23 (1968), 802.

4 Newell, William H., “The Agricultural Revolution in Nineteenth Century France,” this Journal, 33 (Dec. 1973), 697731.

5 See Morineau, Michel, Les faux-semblants d'un démurrage économique: agriculture et demographie en France au XVIIIe siècle (Paris, 1970), and Coy, Joseph and Ladurie, E. LeRoy, Les fluctuations du produit de la dime (Paris, 1972), pp. 2024.

6 Ministère de l'Agriculture, Récoltes des céréales et des pommes de terre de 1815 à 1876 (relève des rapports transmis annuellement par les Prefets au Ministere de l'Agriculture et du Commerce) (Paris, 1878).

7 Statistique agricole, 1840, p. xiii.

8 See Comité des Travaux Historiques, Section d'histoire moderne et contemporaine, Notices, lnventaires et documents: la statistique agricole de 1814 (Paris, 1914), pp. 70, 77, 82–83, 94–98, 100, 220–21, 275, 471–72, 497. See also Vidalenc, Jean, Le départcment de l'Eure sous la monarchic constitutionelle (1814–1848) (Paris, 1932), pp. 409, 443–44; and Thuillier, Andree, Economie et société nivernaises au début du XIXe siècle (Paris, 1974), p. 56. The effect of changes in weather is reviewed in Post, John, “A Study in Meteorological and Trade Cycle History: The Economie Crisis Following the Napoleonic Wars,” this Journal, 34 (June 1974), 315–49.

9 Toutain, Le produit physique de l'agriculture, pp. 23–24; Lévy-Leboyer, “La croissance économique,” pp. 802–03. These sources are reviewed by Gille, Bertrand in Les sources statistiques de France des enqûetes de XVIIe siècle à 1870 (Geneva, 1964), pp. 157–61, 183.

10 In 1851 the department of Nievre, which then had an extensive charcoal iron industry, possessed only five official abattoirs from which records could have been obtained. Any animals slaughtered on farms or in the villages thus went unrecorded. See Thuillier, Guy, Aspects de l'économie nivernaise au XIXe siècle (Paris, 1970), p. 50. As the poor ate pork, the issue turns on the quantity of beef consumed outside of the major towns. Despite the scale economies that made it difficult to establish slaughterhouses in small towns and villages, it is hard to believe that the entire consumption of beef, veal, and lamb passed through licensed abattoirs.

11 As compared with.the estimates given in Toutain, J.-C., “La eonsommation alimentaire en France de 1789 à 1964,” Economies et sociétés, 5 (Nov. 1971), 1946. The index of the combined effects of inter-regional and urban-rural shifts in the distribution of population on per capita meat consumption is 98 (1840=100). To compute this index I accepted the estimates of urban and rural consumption in 1840 and regional estimates reported in Desert, G., “Viande et poisson dans l'alimentation des francais au milieu de XIXe siècle,” Annales (E.S.C.), 30 (1975), 519, 522, and 532. Population estimates are those reported in Pouthas, C., La population française pendantla première moitié du XIXe siècle (Paris, 1956), pp. 4045. The construction of the index is the same as in Gallman, Robert, “The Statistical Approach: Fundamental Concepts as Applied to History,” in Taylor, George R. and Ellsworth, Lucas F., eds., Approaches to American Economic History (Charlottesville, Va., 1971).

12 See Lévy-Leboyer, M., Le revenu agricole, et la rente foncière en Basse-Normandie: étude de croissance régionale (Paris, 1972), p. 6768, 73. The records from the two Paris markets at Sceaux and Poissy show that between 1843 and 1852 Normandy supplied 37 percent of all oxen slaughtered, 22 percent of all cows, and 13 percent of calves. The departments of the Ile de France supplied 51 percent of the cows and 57 percent of calves slaughtered. The region of Anjou supplied about 20 percent of oxen. The Nivernais supplied only 4 percent of all steers and only a little more than 1 percent of the cows. See Villeroy, Felix, Manuel de l'éléveur des bêtes à cornes (Paris, 1861), p. 251.

13 Fourastié, Jean, Documents pour l'histoire et la théorie des prix, vol. 1 (Paris, 1957), pp. xxii-iii, 1011; Vidalenc, Le département de l'Eure, pp. 698–99; Cobbett, James Paul, A Ride of Eight Hundred Miles in France (London, 1824), pp. 48, 81; and Cobbett, John M., Letters from France (London, 1825), pp. 26, 47, 75, 157, 217.

14 See Charles Pouthas, La population française, pp. 63–64, 204–06; Leuillot, Paul, L'Alsace au début du XIXe siècle, II, Les transformations économiques (Paris, 1959); Pierre Coutin “L'Evolution de la technique des labours dans le Nord de la Limagne depuis de début du XIXe siècle jusquʻen 1938,” Folklore paysanne (March-April 1938), 30–43; Dupin, C., Forces productives et commerciales de la France, 2 vols. (Paris, 1827); and M. Demonet, P. Dumont, and E. LeRoy Ladurie, “Anthropologie de la jeunesse masculine en France.”

15 Toutain, J.-C., “Les transports en France de 1800 à 1965,” Cahiers de I'I.S.E.A., ser. AF 8 (Paris, 1967), pp. 4647, 56, 75, 92. According to Toutain's estimate, the cost of transport on national roads fell from 35 francs per ton-kilometer in 1800–1814 to between 20 and 25 francs in 1830–1845. Foville reckons that costs fell from about 30 in 1814 to 20 in 1841 and that about half of this reduction can be attributed to improvements in the surface of the roads. de Foville, Alfred, La transformation des moyens de transport et ses conséquences économiques (Paris, 1880), p. 120.

16 Calculated from figures given in ibid., 109–10.

17 Once communications were improved, agricultural improvements followed rapidly. See, for example, Thabault, Roget, Education and Change in a Rural Community: Mazières-en- Gatine, 1848–1914, trans. Tregar, Peter (London, 1971).

18 On the first appearance and early extension of artificial meadows in the Paris basin, see Jacquart, Jean, La crise rurale en Ile-de-France, 1550–1670 (Paris, 1974), pp. 327–29; Brunet, Pierre, Structure agraire et économie agricole des oplateaux tertiaires entre la Seine et l'Oise (Caen, 1960), pp. 310–16; Meuvret, Jean, “La vaine pâture et progrès agronomique avant la Révolution,” in Meuvret, J., Etudes d'histoire économique (Paris, 1971), pp. 193–96; and Statistique agricole de 1814, pp. 5, 68–69, 70, 79, 84, 96, 144, 173, 197, 213–15, 230, 239, 244, 248–49, 367, 480, 506–07.

19 Computed from Statistic agricole, 1840.

20 There were two further ways that agricultural productivity could be increased in this period: the discovery and settlement of more productive land and improvements in the organization of trade in agricultural products. F.M.L. Thompson's “Second Agricultural Revolution” belongs to the second group, at least before 1840, since the trade in bones and other organic wastes used as manures in England should be viewed as yet another sign of its superior economic organization in the early nineteenth century rather than as a distinct branch of agricultural technology. See The Second Agricultural Revolution, 1815–1880,” Economic History Review, 2nd ser., 21 (April 1968), 6677.

21 For regional variation in cooking, see Hémardinquer, Jean-Jacques, “Les graisses de cuisine en France: Essai des cartes,” Annales(E.S.C), 16 (1961), 747–71; for meat and fish, see Desert, “Viandes et poissons.”

22 This paragraph is drawn mainly from Duckham, A. N., The Fabric of Farming (London, 1958); Spedding, C. W., Grassland Ecology (Oxford, 1971); and Eyre, S. R., Vegetation and Soils: A World Picture (2nd ed.; Chicago, 1968).

23 Clout, H.D. and Phillips, A.D.M., “Fertilisants mineraux en France au XIXe siècle,” Etudes rurales, 45 (Jan.-Mardi 1972), 928.

24 Nitrogen stimulates growth by causing cells to expand. This apparently reduces diseases during the early stages of growth, but makes the mature plants more susceptible to rust, leaf rot, mildew, and root rot. See U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, Plant Diseases, Yearbook of Agriculture, 1953 (Washington, 1953), pp. 107–10; and Black, C. A., Soil-Plant Relationships (2nd ed.; New York, 1968), pp. 522–34. On the problems associated with curing the legumes, whose solid stems dry more slowly than those of natural grasses, see Piper, Charles, Forage Plants and Their Culture (New York, 1914), pp. 2228, and Villeroy, Manuel de l'éléveur, pp. 82–83.

25 According to Spedding, “The activities of man not only modify the natural environment but replace those of many of the components of a natural system. Man thus operates to eliminate predators and replaces these activities by planned predation of his own. He may control animal reproduction and, as far as he can, the incidence of disease-producing organisms. The greater the degree of simplification from a natural to acrop-grass situation, the more complex and numerous the activities of the farmers have to be. Problems arise chiefly when the activities required on the part of the farmer are uneconomic or beyond his skill or knowledge. They may be uneconomic if they are required very frequently. Lack of skill may be a deficiency of the individual farmer or represent a more general problem. Lack of knowledge may relate to problems which were not foreseen at all or to which no solution has been found.” Spedding, Grassland Ecology, p. 67.

26 See van Bath, B. H. Slicher, “The Rise of Intensive Husbandry in the Low Countries,” in Bromley, J. S. and Kossmann, E. H., eds., Britain and the Netherlands (London, 1960), pp. 137–53; Kerridge, Eric, The Agricultural Revolution (London, 1967), pp. 1540; and de Vries, Jan, The Dutch Rural Economy in the Golden Age, 1500–1700 (New Haven, 1974), pp. 136–64.

27 This is readily apparent in the descriptions of crop rotations collected for the agricultural census of 1862. The three-course rotations were still in force in northern France in the mid-1930s. See Gottmann, Jean, ed., Documents pour servir à l'étude de la structure agraire dans la moitié occidentale de la France (Paris, 1964). For an analysis of this evolution see Graritham, George, Technical and Organizational Change in French Agriculture, 1840–1880 (PhD. dissertation, Yale University, 1972).

28 The intolerance of legumes for acid soils appears to stem from the way high water levels and acidity inhibit the growth of their root systems and depress the population and activity of soil bacteria that transform organic nitrogen into more available or “mineralized” compounds. See Black, C. A., Soil-Plant Relationships, pp. 325, 345, 340–43; Mays, D., ed., Forage Fertilization (Madison, 1974), pp. 304–05; Salter, P. J. and Goode, G. E., Crop Responses to Water at Different Stages of Growth (Farnham Royal, Bucks, 1967), pp. 158–59.

29 See Faucher, Daniel, “L'Assolement triennal en France,” Etudes rurales, 1 (1961), 717.

30 Institut National de la Statistique et des Etudes Economiques (Paris, 1953). This handbook attempts to classify administrative districts (mainly cantons) into geographic regions defined on the basis of geology and economic activity. Even within the small regions utilized in this study there is significant variation in soil type, so I have had to exercise considerable judgment in determining the dominant soil type in each arrondissement. Where possible, I checked these decisions against the maps of soil type and vegetation prepared by the Comite National de Géographie for the Atlas de la France (Paris, 19331938).

31 As a carefully cultivated row crop, the potato possessed some of the advantages of a fallow crop; but it could not form the basis of a more intensive mixed husbandry because the indigestibility of raw potatoes prevented it from being integrated with livestock husbandry. There is evidence that potatoes were commonly cooked and fed to pigs everywhere, but as a major source of fodder that could be used to maintain large stocks of manure-producing animals, the potato failed because of the dangers that sprouted potatoes presented to the health of the livestock. See Ministère de l'Agriculture, Agriculture française, par mm. les inspecteurs d'agriculture, d'après les ordres de M. le ministre de l'agriculture et du commerce, département des Hautes Pyrénées (Paris, 1843); Agriculture francaise … Tarn (Paris, 1845), p. 277; Rasquin, Max, Engraissement économique du bétail (Renaix, Belgium, 1906), pp. 3435.

32 Sion, J., Les paysans de la Normandie Orientale (Paris, 1909), pp. 345–46; Agriculture francaise … Tarn, pp. 316–17; and Kerridge, Eric, The Agricultural Revolution (London, 1967), p. 27.

33 Mid-nineteenth-century sources place manure production in stallfed cattle at two to three times their fodder consumption. The fertilizing value of this manure depended on the type of fodder consumed—clover being twice as powerful as meadow hay and four times as powerful as straw—and on the way the dung was handled. According to Wilcox, nitrogen losses on land cropped in wheat are approximately 38 kilograms per hectare, or the equivalent of about 20 quintals of manure produced from clover hay. At clover yields of 30 quintals per hectare, this represents from a third to a half a hectare's production of clover. Moll and Gayot estimated that the productivity of manure in the 1850s was worth five to six francs per 10 quintals in extra crops, or about a dozen francs per hectare of meadows. These calculations all assume that the dung was properly prepared and spread on the fields, operations which were highly laborintensive and not easily worked into the schedule of the crop year. See Villeroy, Manuel de l'éléveur, pp. 174–75; Aujollet, P., La vache et ses produits, veau-lait-viande-travail-fumier (3rd ed.; Paris, 1889), p. 226; Moll, Louis et Gayot, Eugène, La connaissance générate du boeuf (Paris, 1860), p. 161; Wilcox, Early Vernon and Smith, Clarence B., Farmer's Cyclopedia of Livestock (New York, 1912), pp. 174–75; Ensminger, M., The Stockman's Hand-book (Danville, Ill., 1959), p. 294.

34 Estimates of direct inputs have been taken from Commision de statistique cantonale: comptes de frais de cultures par hectare de terres, Ardennes à Meuse (1852–1854), Archives Nationales F20 560–561. I have estimated foregone fallow grazing, from published estimates in the Statistique argricole, 1840 of gross revenue per hectare of fallow, on the assumption that fallow hay was worth 5 francs per quintal and, in arrondissements where the value of output per hectare was reported to be more than 20 francs, that the fallow was actually being used to grow catch crops, as the Statistique itself recognizes. According to Kerridge (Agrarian Revolution, p. 27) “clover wheat” yielded 25 to 50 percent less value per acre than “fallow wheat” in eighteenth-century England. I have assumed that the decline was 10 percent, which amounts to a loss of 24 to 30 francs per hectare on soils where the yield was 12 to 15 hectoliters and when wheat sold at 20 francs.

35 Frédéric Lullin de Chateauvieux, Voyages agronomiques en France, vol. 1, p. 27. The Cobbetts also remarked that the most prosperous farmers were usually innkeepers. The growth in the volume of goods transported after 1840 can thus be seen as an additional cause of the extension of sown meadows.

36 See Appendix for sources and further details.

37 Between 1840 and 1860 the domestic per capita supply of meat rose from 22.6 kilos to 30.1 kilos. J.-C. Toutain, “La consommation alimentaire,” p. 1946.

38 See Agriculture francaise … Hautes Pyrénées, p. 347; Aude, pp. 272–73; Haute Garonne, p. 277; Villeroy, Manuel de l'éléveur, p. 193; Garner, Gilbert, Paysans du Beaujolais et du Lyonnais, 1800–1970 (Grenoble; 1973), vol. 1, p. 183. Ages at slaughter are given in the 1852 Statistique Agricole.

39 See Pyke, Magnus, Man and Food (New York, 1970), pp. 1416; Roscoe Snapp, Beef Cattle, p. 190; Armsby, Manual of Cattle Feeding, pp. 148–49; Borie, Animaux de la ferme, pp. 57, 69; Moll et Gayot, Connaissance du boeuf, pp. 302–03.

40 The change in draft animals from cattle to horses occurred on the western and southern margins of the Paris basin between 1840 and 1880. See Villeroy, Manuel, p. 100–02.

41 See Thuillier, Andrée, Economie et société nivernaise au début de XIXe siècle (Paris, 1974), pp. 6066; Ministère de l'Agriculture, Concours d'animaux de boucherie en 1857, à Bordeaux, Nimes, Lyons, Lille et concours international de Poissy. Compte rendu (Paris, 1858), 252–53; Borie, Victor, Animaux de la ferme: espèce bovine (Paris, 1863), p. 69. For average age at slaughter in 1852, see 1852 Statistique agricole. Villeroy notes that rapid upgrading of French stock in this period was impeded by the difference in size of English stud bulls, weighing upwards of 600 kilograms and the small French cows, the best of which weighed scarcely 250. Cows frequently refused to be serviced and broken backs or dislocated tails were not uncommon accidents. Villeroy, Manuel, pp. 12–13.

42 1840 Statistique agricole, vol. 4, pp. 688–89. Fussell, G. E., “The Size of English Cattle in the Eighteenth Century,” Agricultural History, 3 (Oct. 1929), 160–81.

43 Weights recorded in 1814 were 350 kilos for oxen and 250 for cows in the Tarn, 200 for oxen and 160 for cows in Gers, 150 and 75 near Rennes in Brittany, and 200 and 140 near Lisieux, capital of Normandy's grazing district. La statistique agricole de 1814, pp. 131, 152, 281, 312, 547.

44 Thuillier, Aspects de l'économie nivernaise, p. 22.

45 Mulhall, Michael G., The Dictionary of Statistics (London, 1892), p. 286. This optimistic view of the level of meat consumption was disputed by SirGiffen, Robert (“Further Notes on the Progress of the Working Classes,” Journal of the Royal Statistical Society, 49 [1886], pp. 55ff.) and more recently by Hobsbawm, Eric in his celebrated article on “The British Standard of Living, 1790–1850,” Economic History Review, 2nd ser., 10 (1957), 6268. However, the dietaries of poor law workhouses, not famous for lavish fare, suggest meat consumption of a pound a week, or about 24 kilos per year for the poorest members of the community. Second Annual Report of the Poor Law Commissioners for England and Wales (London, 1836), cited by Hartwell, R. M., in E. Hobsbawm and R. Hartwell, “The Standard of Living During the Industrial Revolution,” Economic History Review, 2nd ser., 16 (1963), 145. This is above average consumption in France.

46 Désert, “Viande et poissons”; Mandrou, Robert, “Les consommations des villes françaises an milieu de XIXe siècle,” Annales (E.S.C.), 16 (1961), 740–47.

47 Burnett, John, Plenty and Want: A Social History of Diet from 1815 to the Present Day (London, 1966), p. 621; Sutch, Richard, “The Care and Feeding of Slaves,” in David, Paul A., Gutman, Herbert G., Sutch, Richard et al. , Reckoning with Slavery (New York, 1976), pp. 262–63. Sutch's estimate of 29 pounds of beef per slave per year is almost the same as Désert's estimate of per capita consumption of all meat in France.

48 Desert, “Viande et poissons,” p. 523. The extravagance of the meat dishes consumed in the early nineteenth century is chronicled in Aron, Jean-Paul, Essai sur la sensitibilité alimentaire à Paris au XIXe siècle (Paris, 1972), and by Burnett, Social History of Diet, pp. 81–87, 92–94.

49 Laurent, L'Octroi de Dijon, pp. 109, 154–55.

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