Cover

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Title Page, Copyright

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Contents

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pp. v-viii

List of Illustrations

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p. ix

List of Tables

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pp. ix-xii

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Preface

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pp. xiii-xvi

I started to work on this book six or seven years ago, when my colleague Paolo Malanima asked me to write about a hundred pages on agriculture for a textbook on the economic history of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, which he planned to edit. The task was both intriguing and challenging at the same time. I had written extensively on Italian agriculture (the attentive reader of this book will surely spot my pet issues) and...

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CHAPTER ONE: Introduction

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pp. 1-4

Agriculture has always been absolutely necessary for the very survival of humankind. For centuries, it has provided people with food, clothing, and heating, and it has employed most of the total active population. Nowadays, we dress mainly in artificial and synthetic fibers and heat themselves with fossil fuels, but the primary sector still supplies all the food we need. The available projections suggest that the world population will...

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CHAPTER TWO: Why Is Agriculture Different?

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pp. 5-15

The relationship with environment has always been a distinctive feature of agriculture, but its nature has changed deeply in the recent decades.1 The current worries about the impact of agriculture on the environment would have greatly surprised a nineteenth-century American farmer, and probably an Indian one in the present day, too. The experience led them to consider nature as an enemy: he had to fight for survival...

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CHAPTER THREE: Trends in the Long Run

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pp. 16-30

The starting point of the analysis must be a review of long-term trends. How much did total and per capita agricultural production grow? Did the composition of output change? Did the prices of agricultural product rise or fall relative to the prices of other goods and services? How much did trade in agricultural product grow in the long run? The key to answering these questions must be provided by national data series. Price data, especially for staples as rice in Asia or wheat in Europe, are fairly abundant from...

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CHAPTER FOUR: Patterns of Growth: The Inputs

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pp. 31-68

Measuring the growth of inputs is far from easy because the data are incomplete. The available sources refer mostly to stocks (number of workers, acreage, capital, etc.), while one would need data on flows of services. This causes potential biases, which should be considered whenever possible. Furthermore, the coverage varies by country, factor, and period. The data on capital are particularly scarce: there are no aggregate data even for recent years, and thus it is necessary to present data by item. The data...

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CHAPTER FIVE: The Causes of Growth: The Increase in Productivity

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pp. 69-82

Chapter 3 has shown that world agricultural production increased quite considerably, especially after World War II. In contrast, the growth of inputs, although quite fast until 1914, slowed down remarkably afterward. In many countries, the quantity of labor fell. Thus, the overall productivity must have risen. This increase is often proxied with the production per unit of land (or per unit of seed) or per unit of labor.1 These partial measures are quite popular among historians and economists because they are...

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CHAPTER SIX: Technical Progress in Agriculture

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pp. 83-116

Technical progress has always attracted the attention of economists and economic historians as the key to sustained economic growth. As a result, theories on its causes abound, but none of them really seems suited to explain the whole process, nor can they take the specificity of agriculture into account. It would be pointless to discuss the economic theory of technical progress here. We will focus on two competing interpretations of technical change in agriculture: a loosely defined “modernization...

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CHAPTER SEVEN: The Microeconomics of Agricultural Institutions

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pp. 117-142

In theory, agricultural households could be completely self-sufficient if they were ready to work very hard and to accept a very low living standard. They can obtain much more by interacting with other households, and pooling or exchanging factors of production and goods. These interactions need a set of formal or informal rules to determine the initial ownership of the goods and factors (property rights) and to regulate...

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CHAPTER EIGHT: Agricultural Institutions and Growth

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pp. 143-186

Understanding how agricultural institutions work from a “theoretical” point of view is interesting and important for its own sake, but is it also a preliminary step to tackling the really big issues. How did institutions change in the long run? What caused the change? And, last but surely not least, how much did institutional change affect agricultural performance? Did institutions adjust to the need of agriculture or did they evolve independently, possibly slowing down growth? This chapter addresses...

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CHAPTER NINE: The State and the Market

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pp. 187-220

The nature of agricultural policies has changed dramatically in the past two centuries. Traditional states followed a policy of benign neglect, limiting themselves to extract men and money for their political pursuit, and to arrange the supply of as much food as possible to the urban population. In contrast, nowadays, as G. Libecap (1998, 181) points out at the beginning of his review of long-term changes in American policy, “Agriculture is among the most regulated sectors of the American economy. The production...

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CHAPTER TEN: Conclusions: Agriculture and Economic Growth in the Long Run

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pp. 221-232

The nature of agricultural policies has changed dramatically in the past two centuries. Traditional states followed a policy of benign neglect, limiting themselves to extract men and money for their political pursuit, and to arrange the supply of as much food as possible to the urban population. In contrast, nowadays, as G. Libecap (1998, 181) points out at the beginning of his review of long-term changes in American policy, “Agriculture is among the most regulated sectors of the American economy. The production...

Statistical Appendix

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pp. 233-250

Notes

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pp. 251-324

Bibliography

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pp. 325-380

Index

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pp. 381-388