2-1: An Agricultural Revolution

An Agricultural Revolution

Part 1 of 2: Read the following passage concerning the start of the Agricultural Revolution in Britain.

     An English Agricultural Revolution happened in the century or so after 1750. It was marked by a dramatic increase in the amount of food harvested by farmers. It was a not a instant change but over a long period of time the effects were dramatic. To understand why the Agricultural Revolution is so important you have to examine the consequences of it.

One obvious sign of the Agricultural Revolution is the fact that an expanding population from this time on was largely fed by local farmers. In 1750 English population stood at about 5.7 million. It had probably reached this level before, in the Roman period, then around 1300, and again in 1650. But at each of these periods the population ceased to grow, essentially because farmers could not respond to the pressure of feeding extra people. As a result the population leveled off and, on occasion, declined as a result of war, plagues, famines etc. Contrary to expectation, however, population grew to unprecedented levels after 1750, reaching 16.6 million in 1850, and agricultural output expanded with it.

One reason food output grew was through new farming systems involving the rotation of turnips and clover. This crop rotation system combined with an increase in the amount of land used for growing crops led to higher crop yields. The intensity of agriculture was also increased. Lands traditionally used for low intensity hunting (fowl hunting) were replaced by a high-intensity system based on arable crops.

Other examples include the clearing of woodland and the reclamation of unused land. It is impossible to know how much more land was actual “reclaimed” form the wilderness, but it may have affected some 30 per cent of the agricultural area of England, from the mid-17th to the mid-19th centuries.


  1. Why does more food lead to a bigger population?
  2. What are the potential benefits and drawbacks of a large population in an area where there traditionally has been a small one?
  3. Over-harvesting often leads to fields that are depleted of nutrients vital to the growth of crops. What is a plausible theory concerning how English farmers could grow crops like clover and turnips continually without giving a year or two for the fields to regenerate?
  4. What is the difference between land used for low intensity agriculture and land used for high intensity agriculture? Give 1 example for each that is not mentioned in the reading.
  5. Thomas Malthus theorized that population growth would eventually exceed the food supply. His theory is the basis for many scientists concern that one day there will be too many people for the resources of this planet to sustain. Give 2 logical actions that can be implemented to either A) increase the food supply or B) slow the exponential population growth.


Part 2 of 2: Watch the video found here, and answer the questions below.


  1. Which of the following is considered a contributing factor in the development of the Agricultural Revolution?

A. A drop in the population of Great Britain.

B. A dramatic drop in overall temperatures globally.

C. New laws that provided government funds to start-up farms.

D. Improved crop yield.

E. Industrial development.

2. What effect did the Agricultural Revolution have on the population of Europe?

A. More food led to an increase in overall health and population.

B. The population decreased.

C. Only the nobility were affected by increased food production.

D. No significant changes occurred.

E. Peasants began revolting over the new four-field system.

3. Why was the potato an important crop?

A. It was the only crop that would grow in Ireland.

B. It was easy to grow and rich in vitamins and carbohydrates.

C. It was the only crop imported from America.

D. It replaced wheat in Great Britain.

E. It was never grown on a large scale.

4. Why was English agriculturalist Jethro Tull significant to the Agricultural Revolution

A. He perfected the four-field system

B. He improved the horse-drawn seed drill

C. He supported legislation to enclose open fields

D. He invented the first tractor

E. He eliminated serfdom

5. Which nation’s agriculture advanced beyond the rest of Europe

A. Great Britain.

B. The Netherlands.

C. France

D. Germany

E. Spain