Questions tagged [agriculture]

For questions related to history of farming and breeding animals.

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78
votes
2answers
14k views

How much smaller were medieval farm animals in England than today?

According the Medieval Life and Times website, Farm animals were small, for scientific breeding had not yet begun. A full-grown ox reached a size scarcely larger than a calf of to-day, and the ...
49
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4answers
9k views

Was hay invented only in the Middle Ages in Europe?

I stumbled upon the following remark from Freeman Dyson: The most important invention of the last two thousand years was hay. In the classical world of Greece and Rome and in all earlier times, ...
45
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2answers
8k views

Did cows in Medieval times have calves in spring or all year round?

I'm a Dairy Educator and want to learn about milking and cows in Medieval Times. I suspect that cows had calves only in spring, like most livestock. Am I correct? Would Medieval people drink the ...
29
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4answers
6k views

Why was sugar cultivation more profitable in the Caribbean/Brazil than West Africa?

The Atlantic slave trade involved the large-scale deportation of West African slaves to sugar plantations on the other side of the Atlantic. Why was it more profitable to do that, rather than to ...
24
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3answers
8k views

Which cultures did *not* produce alcohol?

I've been reading Harold McGee's fascinating On Food and Cooking, and the chapter on alcohol has some interesting historical notes. He describes the widely varied and creative methods used in various ...
21
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5answers
5k views

Why were there no agricultural, city-state forming civilizations in the Ice Age?

In spite of various fringe historians claiming to have found remains of Ice Age civilizations on lost continents, Atlantis and what not, there is - to the best of my knowledge - no tangible evidence ...
20
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2answers
821 views

How does Göbekli Tepe fit into the current picture of society development?

Göbekli Tepe is a huge archaeological site in Eastern Turkey, currently under excavation (make sure you click on "Pictures"). It is one of the oldest architectural complexes in the world, possibly the ...
19
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1answer
696 views

Farming societies without calendars

Were there ever any farming societies without a calendar? For example, the Egyptians had a calendar to help them know when to plant and when to harvest. The ancient Greeks had a calendar, as did the ...
17
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4answers
6k views

What was the size of surface of a cereal crop needed per man per year during the Dark Ages in Western Europe?

If I'm a peasant during the dark ages, what surface (in meters (<- I am in advance on my time)) I need to farm to get enough cereal (for bread and brew) ? how many cereals (in kg (<- again, I'm ...
16
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1answer
952 views

If salt was scarce and expensive, how did people “salt the earth” to ensure their enemies would stay defeated?

A common theme through much of history seems to be ensuring that the recently defeated enemy cannot recover from the loss. A way to ensure that is restricting the ability to grow food -- i.e. "salting ...
15
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2answers
1k views

What crops were part of the medieval spring harvest?

I am listening to a lecture series and the professor mentioned a "spring harvest" starting in mid to late March. I think this is a mistake - the winter crops were not harvested until the Summer - but ...
15
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1answer
2k views

Which fruits and vegetables did Chinese migrants introduce to Australia during the gold rush?

The gold rush in Australia saw many Chinese migrate to the country, with the Chinese population in Australia reaching around 40000 in the 1860s. Many brought with them vegetable seeds to grow near ...
14
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1answer
8k views

How could it be that 80% of townspeople were farmers during the Edo period in Japan?

I've read in the book "A modern history of Japan" by Andrew Gordon and other articles, that most of the Japanese townspeople were farmers(about 80% I suppose) during the Edo period. But according to ...
14
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3answers
2k views

What is the significance of 4200 BCE in context of farming replacing foraging in Europe?

This is a question relating to how and, in particular, why foragers were colonized by farmers (settled societies) of Hilly Flanks (uplands of Fertile Crescent of Southwest Asia). According to Ian ...
14
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7answers
2k views

Did the Roman Empire extend as far north as the Romans could grow wine?

I've heard (in an interview with German biologist Josef Reichholf) the argument that the Romans extended their empire as far north as they could grow their wine. A first glimpse at the map suggests ...
14
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1answer
507 views

What was the Nove / Millar debate, how is it important to the historiography of the Soviet Union?

The Nove / Millar debate was a debate amongst economic historians in the 1970s, where the Western understanding of Soviet economic development in the 1920 and 1930s was seriously revised. In ...
13
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4answers
5k views

How did corn become the most produced crop in the world?

This article has corn listed as the most important crop produced in the world. For some reason I feel like rice, or wheat is the more logical choice. So what were the conditions, and events, that led ...
13
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2answers
846 views

What did Mesopotamian beehives look like?

Do we still know what beehives looked like in ancient Mesopotamia? Are there any contemporary images or descriptions? I'm looking for anything from before 500 BC. I've found an image of ancient ...
12
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3answers
3k views

What was the staple food of the natives of South East Asia before rice?

According to Wikipedia, history of rice, rice was first brought to South East Asia region across the caravan routes of the central Asian steppes. Now many of the subcontinental people of South East ...
12
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4answers
2k views

How many acres per person were needed for the early American settlers vs. the native Americans?

Clearly the lifestyle of the native peoples of North America was less intensive than that of the European settlers and thus required more land per person. However, theirs was not exclusively a hunter-...
11
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2answers
495 views

What did European people of the 5th century AD eat during spring and what was the availability?

It is commonly believed that winter during that age was a period of starvation, with very limited means of procuring food. If the above is true, what did the commoners (peasants, serfs, etc) had to ...
11
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2answers
225 views

When was grass seed first imported specifically for aesthetic reasons?

Wikipedia states that the term lawn dates to no earlier than the 16th century, and that in early 17th century Europe the concept of a closely cut lawn was born. I understand that certain luxuries were ...
10
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1answer
458 views

Was there a president that wanted to “Make America Farm Again”?

There seems to be a lot of push back as the US employment markets move toward knowledge work and away from more traditional industrial roles. I'm sure there was a similar time in history when moving ...
9
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4answers
673 views

Why and when did agriculture lose its prestige?

I do not know whether running a farm has ever been considered the most prestigious kind of work, but it is certainly nowhere near as prestigious as for example being a doctor, at least in my part of ...
9
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3answers
933 views

How did early farmer societies “know” about protein contents of peas and lentils?

According to Jared Diamond's Guns, Germs and Steel (pp 125-126), the domestication of local grains (e.g. wheat, barley) and pulses (e.g. peas, lentils) lauched food production (farming) societies in ...
9
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2answers
376 views

How and why buttermilk was added to English medieval butter?

My question engages in the history of butter. I'm not sure if this is the right place to ask but I will give it a try. I read an old Jewish text (Sharei Dura 78) dated to the 13th century that ...
8
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2answers
660 views

Did the food economy of the late Roman republic rely on foreign imports, or was it more localized?

I'm curious to what degree Rome of the late republic was fed by imports as opposed to local goods. (Rome in this case meaning the city and the Italian peninsula, as opposed to her client states and ...
8
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3answers
5k views

Did Native Americans really use fish as fertilizer?

Tisquantum (January 1, 1585 – November 30, 1622), also known as Squanto, was the Native American who assisted the Pilgrims after their first winter in the New World and was integral to their survival. ...
8
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2answers
513 views

How did agricultural productivity change in Italy with the fall of the Roman Empire and through the early Middle Ages?

I have heard that overall agricultural productivity decreased with the fall of the Roman Empire in the West. In part at least it must be in relation to a general decrease of population - less people ...
7
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2answers
154 views

Estimating gross domestic product in ancient times

I would like to estimate, to what extent the Roman republic (or different parts of it) were "agricultural". Today, a common measure to the "agricultural-ness" of an economy is the gross domestic ...
6
votes
1answer
239 views

How did the Mayans get cacao?

Did the Mayans have plantations of cacao trees, or did they simply gather the fruit from cacao trees in the wild?
6
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1answer
807 views

How was food produced in Europe/Germany prior to the industrial revolution?

I'd appreciate any pointer to books or other medias that cover the production of food prior to the industrial revolution (with the regional focus being in Europe or even more narrowly in Germany/...
6
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2answers
271 views

Cattle handling in the 19th century

In the largest cattle raising countries - Australia and the USA, huge free ranging herds were kept. Nowadays, we use yards and crushes for husbandry activities such as drafting and calf marking (...
6
votes
1answer
168 views

Proportion of population that works in agriculture (1000 - today)

I wonder what was the proportion of people 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 ...
6
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0answers
68 views

Origin of land-lottery system

A report from 1894 describes the Musha'a land tenure system in the Arab villages of Palestine: the agricultural lands of the village are considered common property, and they are divided each year ...
5
votes
3answers
721 views

What caused women to lose their access to resources and become a part of men's possessions with the start of the agriculture era?

I'm reading the book SEX AT DAWN: the prehistoric origins of modern sexuality, the book suggests that in prehistoric times, when homo sapiens were just foraging on the earth, the relation between men ...
5
votes
2answers
316 views

What was typical agricultural produce in Rome or Greece roundabout 2000-3000ya?

During worldbuilding for a roleplaying campaign, I realized that I have a reasonable idea of what people have been growing (and eating) in northern Europe (rye, cabbage, turnips, beets and other roots,...
5
votes
3answers
2k views

Did Peter the Great introduce the potato to Russia?

The essay "Tuber or not Tuber" claims with no citation: Introduction of the tuber to Russia is usually credited to Peter the Great, who became familiar with potatoes while learning the shipbuilding ...
5
votes
1answer
895 views

What was the reason why Americas didn't take to buckwheat as a crop?

Buckwheat is a very useful crop, resulting in healthful food. It was (and is) extremely popular is Eurasia (especially Russia and China). However, despite the fact that - as per Wiki - it was one of ...
5
votes
1answer
231 views

Why did Denmark, unlike in other 'rich' nations, favour agriculture in the 1920s?

According an article on the Economic History Association website, An Economic History of Denmark, Structural development during the 1920s, surprisingly for a rich nation at this stage, was in ...
5
votes
1answer
456 views

How similar were Finnish and Lenape slash-and-burn agriculture?

Slash-and-burn agriculture is a technique where farmers cut down woodland and burn the debris to form farmland. This farmland is usually used for a few years until it loses its fertility, then the ...
5
votes
1answer
739 views

Did the US government ever burn corn?

I remember hearing and/or reading that the US government burned corn (or destroyed it) at some point. This was not because there was anything wrong with the corn, but rather because by buying it they ...
4
votes
3answers
566 views

Were shipboard gardens ever typical?

La Pérouse brought fruit trees and an herb garden on his fatal voyage; his gardener also tended the root cellar. Through the ages, how common or uncommon has it been to cultivate plants aboard a ship?
4
votes
2answers
318 views

Why was agriculture more conducive to slavery in U.S. South than the North?

The most common explanation I hear for why there was more slavery in the South than the North in is that farming was more profitable in the South due to climate, soil quality etc. and the North had ...
4
votes
1answer
152 views

How young of a child could do significant labor?

I've been trying to find out whether, in some cultures historically, a child of age 3 or 4 could do enough work to "pay for their keep", so to speak. In the search I've found out that modern child ...
4
votes
2answers
2k views

What was the main diet of pre-agricultural Asians?

The modern Asian diet is based mostly around rice. Was rice a major part of the paleolithic Asian diet? Did they know how to process and eat rice before agriculture? Aside from meats, what were other ...
4
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0answers
298 views

What was the average day like for a 15th century English peasant or agricultural Labourer?

Because I live in a major urban American city of nearly 500,000 (Colorado Springs), I am finding it difficult to wrap my head around the idea of medieval subsistence agriculture. I am particularly ...
4
votes
0answers
141 views

What was the purpose of a tally stick?

I was recently reading a translation of "The debate between Sheep and Grain" Babylonian creation myth. It mentioned the following in lines 130-142: Every night your count is made and your tally-...
4
votes
0answers
103 views

Effects of land reforms in the 20th and 21st centuries [closed]

As Wikipedia clearly shows, there have been many different land reforms in many different times and places. It seems there is enough data for research about the consequences of land reforms. I am ...
3
votes
3answers
895 views

How did horses become animals of fancy while donkeys largely didn't?

Horses seem to be a much more common sight in so-called "developed" (or rather "heavily mechanized") countries than donkeys are while the latter seem to be still quite popular in many "developing" ...