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I wonder what the proportion of people was that worked in agriculture (growing food and raising livestock, not processing food in a factory plant) throughout the past centuries in Europe and also, to compare, North America.

I imagine that it didn't change much throughout the Dark ages and decreased suddenly as industrial production took over, so I'm especially interested in statistics at that period of time.

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If we restrict to just Western Europe and the USA then it started out at over 80% and decreased to about 2% today in the USA and some EU countries. ... Many factors lowered the percent over the last few centuries: Better roads, secure currency, lower crime rate, several improvements in plow technology, breeding better draft animals, paved roads, crop rotation practices developed, canal development, railways and steamships, refrigeration, electricity and mechanized farming, refrigerated trucks and planes. Getting food to a viable market before it spoiled was a HUGE advance. – Brock Adams Feb 21 '13 at 11:56
Thank you for the answer. Do you have some more indications, such as the centuries? Or any source? – Stockfisch Feb 22 '13 at 10:50
This is one of those big/vague questions that's easy to ask, but much harder to answer in a documented way. I started to put together a proper answer, with references, but it exceeded the time budget I gave it, so I commented instead. I may finish my answer later but make no promises. – Brock Adams Feb 22 '13 at 11:25
PS: The actual "science", even for modern figures is full of wishes, educated guesswork, and interpretation. For example, the 2% figure, for first world nations, is misleading. Since those ag-workers would not be productive without the transportation, chemical, energy, finance sectors, etc. Take away one of those, and the modern farm is severely crippled. Everything's interdependent in ways that no career politician can understand. So that 2% figure is ultimately meaningless. Back in time is, of course, much murkier. – Brock Adams Feb 22 '13 at 11:39
I see :) .. thank you for the clarification and the time you spent on researching this question! – Stockfisch Feb 22 '13 at 12:09

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