Copyright © 2007 Dorling Kindersley
The 18th and 19th centuries saw great changes across Europe and North America in the way people farmed. Scientific methods were used to improve crop yields and breed better livestock. MECHANIZATION made farming more efficient.
At this time there was a new interest in science and technology. Many old crafts were becoming modern industries, and farming was no exception. This was necessary, as cities were growing and their populations needed more food. In France, an inefficient farming system had resulted in famine and political unrest.
In many parts of Europe, farming had changed very little since the Middle Ages. Peasants labored in the fields in great poverty and often had little freedom to move away from their villages. In Britain, farm work was increasingly carried out by large numbers of low-wage laborers.
Thomas Coke was one of the new landowners determined to improve agriculture. He replaced rye with wheat on his land in Norfolk, England, and bred cattle, sheep, and pigs. He also became a Member of Parliament.
In the 1800s, new machines, such as reaping and threshing machines, were invented to do jobs that had previously been done by hand.
These new inventions were brought in to make farming easier and also to reduce costs. By the 1830s, English farm laborers were beginning to worry that mechanization would lead to loss of jobs. They protested by smashing new machinery and burning haystacks. Their fears were valid. In the next 150 years, the number of farmworkers declined rapidly.