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Explain why the agricultural revolution happened.

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Edward Phillips 21 September 2002 EXPLAIN WHY THE AGRICULTURAL REVOLUTION HAPPENED The Agricultural Revolution 1750 - 1900 * Background: The population of Great Britain: 1750: 11 million people lived in Britain. 80% lived and worked in the countryside. Farming was the most important industry 1825: 21 million people lived in Britain. 60% lived and worked in the countryside although industries were growing and a lot of people had moved to the towns. 1900: 40 million people lived in Britain. In England alone, 75% people lived in the towns and huge urban areas had developed. During the 1700's and 1800's, the number of people in the towns who could not grow their own food was increasing rapidly, so Britain's farmers needed to grow more food. Whatever they grew or produced, they could sell and they could charge almost whatever they wanted. To make more money and increase their profits, they were keen to produce as much as possible, but they could only do this if the farming methods they were using were improved. During the early 1700's a great change in farming occurred and The Agricultural Revolution began in Britain. Between 1750 and 1870 there was a huge increase in farm output, brought about by three developments:- Improved crop-growing methods Advances in livestock breeding Invention of new farm equipment * Improved crop-growing methods Before this period, the traditional method of farming was called the open field system. ...read more.


Other crops grown were grains, especially wheat, oats, barley and clover or alfalfa. The grain crops were grown first when the soil was at its most fertile, followed by turnips which were used to feed the cattle in winter. Turnips absorb goodness from deep down in the soil and allow the top soil to rest. The fourth crop, clover, put nitrogen back into the soil, and also provided grazing for cattle and sheep so the farmer had well-fed animals to sell. Their droppings fertilized the ground so that a good wheat crop could be grown the next year. Because clover and swedes naturally replaced the nutrients which the wheat and barley had used up, a fallow year was no longer needed, and farmers could use their land all the time. One big advantage was that they could grow enough clover and turnips for animal fodder which would keep the animals fed throughout the winter months. Before this time, when fodder was in short supply, animals had to be slaughtered in the autumn and the meat was preserved with salt. In the late 1700's an English nobleman named Thomas Coke produced higher yields using 'Turnip' Townshend's system, and encouraged other farmers to adopt the same method. ...read more.


One of the most important inventions of the Agricultural Revolution was the toothed cotton gin, which was invented in the USA in 1793. This separated the cotton fibre from the seeds and made large-scale production of cotton possible. The first threshing machine was invented by Andrew Meikle in 1786. In 1834, Cyrus McCormick, an American inventor, patented the first successful harvesting machine or reaper. In the same year, two American brothers, John and Hiram Pitts patented a thresher, and a few years later, John Deere, an Illinois blacksmith invented a steel plough. Steam powered tractors were developed during the mid 1800's and some farmers in Europe began to use them, but because they were expensive and difficult to use, most farmers continued to use horses and mules to power their farm machines. The machines were not popular with the farm workers because they robbed them of tasks like threshing which employed them for most of the winter. One of the Agricultural Revolution's chief effects was the rapid growth of towns and cities in Europe and the USA during the 1800's. Because of the new methods of farming and the introduction of new farming equipment, fewer people were needed to produce the foods and this is why farming families moved by the thousand to the towns and cities. Sources : SHP : Discovering the Past The Children's Britannica Oxford Children's Encyclopedia The World Encylopedia School notes ...read more.

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