Edexcel A level history option 1C, Britain 1625-1701: conflict, revolution and settlement. Economy, trade and empire

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  • Created on: 15-06-18 11:45

Unit 4-Trade, economy and Empire

Changes in Agricultural Techniques

·         A number of new crops were introduced to Britain in the 17th century, including artichokes, asparagus and clover. This improved eating habits and soil fertility. Diets became more varied amongst the rich.

·         Population growth required an increase in agricultural output.

·         By the 1640s, Britain had a higher agricultural output than every other country, except Holland.

·         In 1700, the average number of days worked annually per agricultural family was 405, compared to 266 in 1450.

·         Enclosure was a major change in the agricultural industry. This involved combining multiple pieces of land into large, individual fields. The enclosed land would then be reserved for the use of a single land owner or tenant. It ensured that crop production was not unnecessarily duplicated as fewer rivals existed in each region. However, small land owners lost out because of this.

·         Increased levels of literacy after 1600 meant that more yeomen and husbandmen were able to make use of books that contained information about new farming techniques. There was now acknowledgement that crops should be selected due to their soil types, providing people with much greater control over the success of their harvests. In 1420, 7 million acres of land were given to arable farming, and by 1700, this number had reached nine million.

·         Much of the work needed to cultivate new crops and develop irrigation was done by Dutch migrants.

·         Water meadows were used more commonly, where water was diverted from a river or stream to a nearby field. This meant that soil could be kept damp, encouraging grass to grow and preventing frost in the spring. Famers could keep more animals.

·         With new techniques came an appreciation that different regions could specialise in different types of farming that were suited to local conditions. The warmer, drier south east was more suitable for arable farming, and the north and west were suited to the rearing of livestock, as they had higher levels of rainfall. Specialised farming helped improve economic conditions for many farmers, mostly the yeomanry. They owned large amounts of land, and so they were generally sheltered from the effects of poor harvests. They therefore had the opportunity to experiment with new crops and techniques, although they could not always afford large scale changes.

·         Small tenants suffered as a result of enclosure and smallholding became an unsustainable form of employment. The number of wage dependant agricultural labourers grew, although inflation reduced the real value of wages. Employment for landowners was relatively secure, although many worked in the cloth industry in order to feed their families- 240,00 were involved in skilled trades by the end of the period.

·         After the Settlement act of 1662, it was easier for land owners to hire labourers from other parishes as these workers were technically settled in other areas, so the employers did not have to


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