Nature or Nurture? Explaining English Wheat Yields in the Agricultural Revolution.

Oct 1997 | 019

Authors: Liam Brunt

We estimate a model of wheat yields for eighteenth century England using village-level data. This is an entirely new approach to quantifying progress during the Agricultural Revolution and enables us to consider both environmental and technological inputs. We find that climate was a crucial factor but soil quality was much less important, thus throwing doubt on traditional explanations for England’s high productivity. Traditional technologies such as drainage were effective in raising yields, but the technological innovations of the eighteenth century were much more effective. We find that turnips and seed drills were by far the most important innovations, contrary to the received wisdom.

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