The agricultural revolution in England: some zoo-archaeological evidence

Simon J. M. DAVIS

en Anthropozoologica 25-26 - Pages 413-428

Published on 01 June 1998

This article is a part of the thematic issue Proceedings of the 7th ICAZ International Meeting, Constance, September 1994

Historians are not agreed as to when farmers began a series of advances in agriculture, often referred to as the Agricultural Revolution. These advances included the improvement of livestock. A traditional view links them with the 18th century Industrial Revolution, while another view suggests they began as early as the 15th century. This article considers measurements of sheep and cattle bones from English mediaeval and post-mediaeval archaeological sites. ln mediaeval times sheep and cattle appear to have been smaller in outlying regions, such as Cornwall and Northumberland, and larger in central regions. Sheep and cattle increased in size in the early postmediaeval period - one or even several hundred years before the traditionally accepted date of the onset of the Agricultural Revo!ution. This early onset of livestock "improvement" provides support for the view that the Agricultural Revolution began in the 15th and 16th centuries rather than the 18th century.


Size, agricultural revolution, England, mediaeval, post-mediaeval.

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