What were the characteristics of the agrarian revolution in Britain?

  • The land enclosure system (fencing and hedging of plots), which replaced the Open Field system in 1750.
  • Mechanization, i.e. use of new farming methods, which required large farms as opposed to the previous small strips.




  • Abolition of fallows. Farmers could no longer leave the land fallow to regain its fertility as was the tradition. Increase in population meant demand for more food, which required most of the land to be put to use.
  • Introduction of crop rotation. Lord Viscount Townsend developed a four-course rotation system called the Norfolk, which consisted of barley, clover, turnips and wheat on the same plot of land over a four-year period, by which land retained or gained but would not lose its fertility.
  • The introduction of intercropping. It was discovered that growing crops like maize and beans on a given piece of land at the same time enabled land to regain fertility, since such crops did not require the same nutrients from the soil and they grew well if planted together.




  • Use of fertilizer. This was pioneered by Lord Viscount Townsend, who recommended manuring of land to increase yields per hectare.
  • Use of machines. This changed agriculture from a small-scale subsistence activity to a large scale business for both subsistence and commercial purposes.
  • Selective breeding of livestock. This was invented between 1725-1795 by Robert Bakewell.
  • Introduction and all-time availability of cattle feed, which helped ensure supply of fresh meat all the year-round.
  • The animal breeds that resulted from Robert Bakewell’s Selective Breeding technique.
  • New improved cattle breeds like Devon, the Short-Horn, Hereford, Ayshire, and Aberdeen Angus
  • Sheep breeds such as the Leicester, Shropshire, Suffolk, and Oxford.
  • Pig breeds like Yorkshire, Berkshire, and Tamworth.




THE LAND ENCLOSURE SYSTEM

How the Enclosure system serve as an agricultural landmark in Britain

  • It was necessitated by use of new farming methods that required large farms as opposed to the previous small strips.
  • Rich farmers bought up all the land and, through the Enclosure Movement, demanded that land be enclosed by fencing.
  • Through the Enclosure act of 1750, the British government mandated farmers to fence their land. This enabled the rich to acquire a lot more land and created large farms that were easily managed as farmers could specialize in crop or animal production, which was highly profitable.




  • The farmers that bought up the land got title deeds, which they could use to borrow money from firms to improve their farms.
  • Peasants, who could not buy their own estates were evicted from and lost their land, which was sold off to rich landlords.
  • There was displacement and a lot more hardship for those who lost their land as they had to sell their labour to the rich farmers and to the factories in the urban as others
  • emigrated to the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.
  • There were many changes in lifestyle as agriculture was transformed from a simple human occupation to a complex highly profitable business.
  • Fallow land was cultivated and wasteland reclaimed. Food could now be grown round the year due to increased irrigation.




  • Cultivation methods and equipment improved, which meant adequate and surplus food production.
  • By 1800, all farmland in Britain was enclosed, which greatly reduced the risk of animal and crop diseases. Aggressive farmers could now increase production without the hindrance of their neighbours.