Skip to main content
×
×
Home

The Nitrogen Hypothesis and the English Agricultural Revolution: A Biological Analysis

  • ROBERT C. ALLEN (a1)
Abstract

A biological model of nitrogen in agriculture is specified for early modern England and used to analyze the growth in grain yields from the middle ages to the industrial revolution. Nitrogen-fixing plants accounted for about half of the rise in yields; the rest came from better cultivation, seeds, and drainage. The model highlights the slow chemical reactions that governed the release of the nitrogen introduced by convertible husbandry and the cultivation of legumes. However efficient were England's institutions, nitrogen's chemistry implied that the English agricultural revolution would be much more gradual than the Green Revolution of the twentieth century.

Copyright
References
Hide All
Allen, Robert C.“The Growth of Labor Productivity in Early Modern English Agriculture.” Explorations in Economic History 25, no. 2 (1988): 117–46.
Allen, Robert C.Enclosure and the Yeoman: The Agricultural Development of the South Midlands, 1450–1850. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1992.
Allen, Robert C. “Agriculture During the Industrial Revolution.” In The Economic History of Britain since 1700, vol. 1: 1700–1860, edited by R. Floud and D.N. McCloskey, 96–122. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2nd edition, 1994.
Allen, Robert C.“Tracking the Agricultural Revolution.” Economic History Review, 2nd series, 52 (1999): 209–35.
Allen, Robert C.“Economic Structure and Agricultural Productivity in Europe, 1300–1800.” European Review of Economic History 3, part 1 (2000): 125.
Allison, F. E. Soil Organic Matter and Its Role in Crop Production. Amsterdam: Elsevier Scientific Publishing Company, 1973.
Becker, F. A., and Aufhammer, W.. “Nitrogen Fertilisation and Methods of Predicting the N Requirements of Winter Wheat in the Federal Republic of Germany.” Proceedings of the Fertiliser Society, No. 211, (1982): 3366.
Broad, J. F. P. “Alternate Husbandry and Permanent Pasture in the Midlands, 1650–1800.” Agricultural History Review 28 (1980): 7789.
Brunt, Liam. “Nature or Nurture? Explaining English Wheat Yields in the Industrial Revolution, c. 1770.” This Journal 64, no. 1 (2004): 193225.
Campbell, Bruce M. S. English Seigniorial Agriculture, 1250–1450. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000.
Chambers, J. D., and Mingay, G. E.. The Agricultural Revolution, 1750–1880. London: B. T. Batsford, 1966.
Chorley, P. “The Agricultural Revolution in Northern Europe, 1750–1880: Nitrogen, Legumes, and Crop Productivity.” Economic History Review, 2nd series, vol. 34 (1981): 7193.
Clark, Gregory. “Yields per Acre in English Agriculture, 1250–1860: Evidence from Labour Inputs.” Economic History Review, 2nd series, vol. 44, no. 3, (1991): 445–60.
Clark, Gregory. “Labour Productivity in English Agriculture, 1300–1860.” In Land, Labour and Livestock: Historical Studies in European Agricultural Productivit, edited by Bruce M. S. Campbell and Mark Overton, 211–35. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1991.
Clark, Gregory. “The Economics of Exhaustion, the Postan Thesis, and the Agricultural Revolution.” This Journal 52, no. 1 (1992): 8184.
Clark, Gregory. “Farmland Rental Values and Agrarian History: England and Wales, 1500–1912.” European Review of Economic History 6, part 3 (2002): 281308.
Cooke, G. W. The Control of Soil Fertility. London: Crosby Lockwood & Son, 1967.
Crowther, E. M., and Yates, F.. “Fertilizer Policy in War-Time: The Fertilizer Requirements of Arable Crops.” The Empire Journal of Experimental Agriculture 9, no. 34 (1941): 7797.
Crush, J. R. “Nitrogen Fixation.” In White Clover, edited by M. J. Baker and W. M. Williams, 185–201. Wallingford, Oxon: C. A. B. International, 1987.
Farmer, D. L. “Grain Yields on Westminster Abbey Manors, 1270–1410.” Canadian Journal of History 18, no. 3 (1983): 331–47.
Foth, Henry D.Fundamentals of Soil Science. New York: John Wiley & Sons, seventh edition, 1984.
Fussell, G. E. The English Dairy Farmer, 1500–1900. London: Frank Cass & Co. Ltd., 1966.
Hall, Sir A. D. The Book of the Rothamsted Experiments, revised by E. J. Russell. London: John Murray, second edition, 1919.
Harris, W. “Population Dynamics and Competition.” In White Clover, edited by M. J. Baker and W. M. Williams, 203–97. Wallingford, Oxon: C. A. B. International, 1987.
Havinden, M. A. “Agricultural Progress in Open Field Oxfordshire” Agricultural History Review 9, part 2 (1961): 7383.
Hoskins, W. G. “The Leicestershire Farmer in the Sixteenth Century.” In Essays in Leicestershire History, edited by W. G. Hoskins, 123–83. Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 1950.
Hoskins, W. G. (1951). “The Leicestershire Farmer in the Seventeenth Century.” In Provincial England, edited by W. G. Hoskins, 149–69. London: Macmillan & Co Ltd, 1963.
Jenkinson, D. S. “The Turnover of Organic Matter in Soil.” In The Use of Isotopes in Soil Organic Matter Studies, Special Supplement to the Journal of Applied Radiation and Isotopes, 187207. Oxford,Pergamon Press, 1966.
Jenkinson, D. S. “The Nitrogen Economy of the Broadbalk Experiments: I. Nitrogen Balance in the Experiments.” Rothamsted Report for 1976, part 2, (1976): 103–09.
Jenkinson, D. S., and Johnston, A. E.. “Soil Organic Matter in the Hoosfield Continuous Barley Experiments.” Rothamsted Report for 1976, part 2, (1976): 87101.
Jenkinson, D. S., and Rayner, J. H.. “The Turnover of Soil Organic Matter in Some of the Rothamsted Classical Experiments.” Soil Science 123, no. 5 (1977): 298305.
Karakacili, Eona. “English Agrarian Labor Productivity Rates Before the Black Death: A Case Study.” This Journal 64, no 1 (2004): 2460.
Kerridge, E.The Agricultural Revolution. London: Allen & Unwin, 1967.
Lawes, SirBennet, John, and Henry Gilbert, Sir J.. The Rothamsted Experiments. Edinburgh and London: William Blackwood and Sons, 1895.
Löhnis, F.“Nitrogen Availability of Green Manures.” Soil Science 22, no. 4 (1926): 253–89.
O'Brien, Patrick K.“Path Dependency, or Why Britain Became an Industrialized and Urbanized Economy Long Before France.” Economic History Review 49, no. 2 (1996): 213–49.
Overton, Mark. “Computer Analysis of an Inconsistent Data Source: The Case of Probate Inventories.” Journal of Historical Geography 3, no. 4 (1977): 317–26.
Overton, Mark. “The Determinants of Crop Yields in Early Modern England.” In Land, Labour and Livestock: Historical Studies in European Agricultural Productivity, edited by Bruce M. S. Campbell and Mark Overton, 284–322. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1991.
Overton, Mark. The Agricultural Revolution in England. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996.
Parkinson, R.A General View of the Agriculture of the County of Rutland. London: R. Phillips, 1808.
Parkinson, R.A General View of the Agriculture of the County of Huntingdon. London: R. Phillips, 1811.
Plott, Robert. The Natural History of Oxfordshire. Oxford: The Theater, 1677.
Postan, M. M. The Medieval Economy and Society. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books Ltd., 1972.
Richardson, H. L. “The Nitrogen Cycle in Grassland Soils: With Especial Reference to the Rothamsted Park Grass Experiment.” Journal of Agricultural Science 28, part 1 (1938): 73121.
Remy, J. C. and Viaux, I. T. C. F.. “The Use of Nitrogen Fertilisers in Intensive Wheat Growing in France.” Proceedings of the Fertiliser Society, No. 211 (1982): 6792.
Russell, Sir John E., and Watson, D. J.. “The Rothamstead Field Experiments on Barley 1852–1937.” The Empire Journal of Experimental Agriculture 6, no. 23 (1938): 268314.
Shiel, Robert S. “Improving Soil Productivity in the Pre-Fertilizer Era.” In Land, Labour, and Livestock: Historical Studies in European Agricultural Productivity, edited by Bruce M. S. Campbell and Mark Overton, 51–77. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1991.
Stanford, George. “Rationale for Optimum Nitrogen Fertilization in Corn Production.” Journal of Environmental Quality 2, no. 2 (1973): 159–66.
Thirsk, Joan “The Farming Regions of England.” In The Agrarian History of England and Wales, Vol. IV, 1500–1650, edited by Joan Thirsk, 1–112. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1967.
Tinker, P. B. and Widdowson, F. V.. “Maximising Wheat Yields and Some Causes of Yield Variation.” Proceedings of the Fertiliser Society, No. 211, (1982): 149–84.
Turner, M. E., Beckett, J. V., and Afton, B.. Farm Production in England, 1700–1914. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001.
White, Robert E.Principles and Practice of Soil Science. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 4th edition, 2006.
Wild, Alan. Russell's Soil Conditions and Plant Growth. Harlow: Longman Scientific & Technical, eleventh edition, 1998.
Young, Arthur. The Farmer's Guide in Hiring and Stocking Farms. London: W. Strahan, 1770.
Recommend this journal

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

The Journal of Economic History
  • ISSN: 0022-0507
  • EISSN: 1471-6372
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-economic-history
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *
×

Metrics

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