History of agriculture

The history of agriculture refers to the development that agriculture has undergone since its appearance, in the Neolithic period, until today, with the use of industrial tools that allow large-scale exploitation. And, if we want to talk about an economic sector with a history, agriculture is the most appropriate of them.

History of agriculture

As we know, agriculture is one of the oldest sectors in the economy. Since the appearance of the first civilizations, agriculture was very present in their day to day. And it is that, since the ancient civilizations abandoned hunting and gathering and began to organize, agriculture has been the way through which this organization has brought about development. Thus, from the division of labor, which allowed citizens to dedicate themselves to different productive tasks in their day-to-day life, to the supply of civilizations itself, which allowed their subsistence, all this, as well as much more, is linked to the emergence of agriculture.

In other words, we are talking about a sector that, until the industrial revolution, was positioned, along with livestock, as the main engine of economic growth in countries. Likewise, and as we said at the beginning, we speak of a determining element for the population, by allowing their subsistence thanks to the food that was extracted from this practice.

However, agriculture has not remained immovable over the years. The different civilizations that have inhabited our planet used very different techniques and tools during their passage through history. In this sense, while Neolithic agriculture used very rudimentary tools, modern agriculture uses heavy machinery that allows the massive extraction of agricultural production. In the same way, while the Romans generated ditches and canals through which to irrigate the fields, the agriculture of the Contemporary Age has automatic irrigation, managed by high-capacity computers.

Therefore, it is convenient to know the different advances that have been developed in agriculture, one of the oldest economic sectors in our history. Well, through these, we can learn about many other aspects of civilizations, while using past knowledge to continue developing the agriculture of the future.

That said, let’s look at the evolution of agriculture throughout history, focusing on those most prominent episodes.

History of agriculture

Among the different historical periods in which agriculture has undergone a remarkable evolution, which has gone down in history, the following 6 should be highlighted:

  • Primitive agriculture.
  • Agriculture in ancient Rome.
  • Agriculture in the Middle Ages.
    • Feudal agriculture.
    • Islam agriculture.
  • Agriculture in the Modern Age.
    • Agriculture and Industrial Revolution.
  • Agriculture in the Contemporary Age.

Primitive agriculture

It refers to the oldest stage in which we find agricultural activity. In this stage, the first social transformations take place as a consequence of the introduction of agricultural practice.

Thanks to the emergence of agriculture, societies stopped being hunters and gatherers, giving rise to agricultural societies. In the same way, they stopped being nomads, allowing the settlements and the cultivation of the land to be self-sufficient.

Main contributions of primitive agriculture

His main contributions were the agricultural practice itself. This allowed the birth of agricultural societies, and, with it, the development of the first civilizations.

Agriculture in ancient Rome

With the appearance of agriculture, as we said, the first civilizations emerged, giving rise to the great empires. Among those empires is the Roman Empire.

The Roman Empire made great contributions to the development of agriculture. Among those contributions, they delved into the use of livestock to till the land, as well as the use of tools that allowed less effort for man and greater productivity. The Roman plow is a sample of this, or the use of compost.

In addition, the Romans also introduced highly developed irrigation systems. Among these, the advancement of the mill, irrigation techniques, aqueducts, among other systems that allowed the development of this discipline stand out.

Main contributions of agriculture in ancient Rome

As we have commented, the main contributions were the techniques to work the land, such as the Roman plow, as well as the introduction of tools, such as the mill, and more efficient and effective irrigation systems.

Agriculture in the Middle Ages

During the Middle Ages, two stages with great contributions to agricultural practice stand out.

These stages to which we refer are the feudal stage, as well as the stage of Islam and its contribution.

For this reason, we divide the history of agriculture during the Middle Ages into these two sub-periods, being those that contribute the most to agricultural practice.

Islam agriculture

Although the Roman Empire, as well as other societies, implemented tools such as the aqueduct, or other utensils that promoted the advancement of agriculture, it is not until this moment when agriculture experiences another great change in societies.

Thus, we must say that the agricultural revolution during Islam was an era of discovery, both in terms of tools and production techniques.

The ferris wheel, the hydraulic and wind mill, and the dam, are some of the innovations brought by these societies. And all this, in addition to a list of techniques that gave rise to what we know as "advanced agricultural systems."

Feudal agriculture

Feudalism was a system that owes its fame, in part, to agriculture. The feudal lords fed the population in their fiefdoms with agricultural production, so we speak of an elementary practice for the subsistence of these societies. Furthermore, the frequent warlike activity in this period made the surplus a necessity, for the development of the division of labor.

For this reason, at this stage new technical advances such as the iron plow were developed, as well as technical elements such as the three-year rotation. These changes made it possible to maximize production and generate enough surplus that this society needed.

Among these innovations, the introduction of fallow occupies a very important place, a technique used in this phase of history, allowing the lands to regenerate the nutrients that they lost in their exploitation phase.

Main contributions of agriculture in the Middle Ages

Agriculture during the Middle Ages underwent very remarkable changes. Regarding the contribution of feudalism, we find the iron plow, as well as the three-year rotation that, together with the fallow, leave a great contribution to this economic activity.

Whereas, when it comes to agriculture during Islam, we speak of tools such as the mill, the waterwheel, the dam, as well as other mechanisms that allowed the advancement of this agricultural practice.

Agriculture in the Modern Age

It refers to the stage in which a major transformation of agriculture is collected throughout history. The beginning of this transformation begins in the 18th century, with the arrival of the Industrial Revolution, and ends in the 19th century.

Thus, we are talking about technical changes and legislative changes that allowed a great advance in this discipline.

Regarding these technical changes, this stage allowed the increase in production and, therefore, the surplus. In this way, a greater commercialization was generated, as well as a greater professionalization of this sector. Thus, it is estimated that production increased by up to 90% with the appearance of these techniques, as well as the machinery developed during the Industrial Revolution.

However, changes in legislation, reforms in which the lands were allowed to cease to be public, were also very influential, allowing private ownership of them. And it is that these changes in the regulation made this practice a more favorable activity for landowners, thus encouraging investment.

Agriculture and Industrial Revolution

As mentioned, the Industrial Revolution occupies a prominent place at this stage in the history of agriculture. Without that Industrial Revolution, many of the machines that made it possible to obtain these levels of production, as well as the application of that more favorable regulation, would not have existed.

Main contributions of the modern age to agriculture

Among the main contributions, we find the most favorable regulation for landowners, as well as the industrialization of agriculture that, with the introduction of industrial machinery and tools, allowed the professionalization of this activity.

Agriculture in the Contemporary Age

At this stage, the green revolution and the sustainable and ecological agricultural movement stand out.

The green revolution refers to the change that agriculture has undergone since the last agrarian revolution. This revolution refers to the changes that agriculture implements and that took place between the 1960s and 1980s in the United States, as well as other countries. These changes are the adoption of a series of practices, as well as technologies, which allow agricultural production in low fertile or even extreme lands.

Thus, we are talking about a revolution in which it was a question of extending agriculture in lands in which, previously, no harvest would have been generated. In this way, agricultural practice is allowed all over the planet.

And in the same way, we have organic farming, a movement that, in order to make agricultural practice a more sustainable and environmentally friendly practice, uses non-polluting methods for the extraction of production.

In this way, this movement implements environmental criteria in agricultural practice, and reviews all the mechanisms that have been introduced throughout history. This, in order to see its impact on the planet and its sustainability.

Main contributions of agriculture in the Contemporary Age

Among these contributions, the changes that allow agricultural practice in less fertile lands, which are also, in many occasions, more impoverished territories stand out. In this way, an economic activity is allowed that can help them to develop and obtain food.

While, on the other hand, progress in ecological matters is highly valued. Well, many of the fertilizers and pesticides that have been implemented throughout history, over time, would also have been the cause of numerous natural disasters.