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EUROPE AGRICULTURE & AGRARIAN HISTORY 1

Introduction

Like Joan Thirsk, Robert Brenner studied the agricultural history and capitalism of

farming, which emerged the term agrarian history. Thirsk sought out ways to improve capitalism

by focusing her studies on consumers and the industries fueling the consumers. Brenner

summarized the rise of innovation lead to a rise in productivity was essential in the development

of modern industrial capitalism. These works have been disputed as a misrepresentation of the

period and misleading in nature. Regardless, the mere fact of building his research on the

agrarian history contributes to the emergence of agricultural history today. According to Ghosh,

increased urbanization, markets and fairs, social stratification, and division of labor between

town and country, all contributed to the modernization of agriculture. Drawing on the works of

Joan Thirsk, she conducted a great deal of study into the masculinity of agriculture, sewing,

weaving and threading; perhaps, her ideas for increased productivity of the inclusion of

countrywomen and children were an instrumental factor. The division of labor between town and

country could have been the inclusion of countrywomen and children.

There was an increase in cash crops and non-agricultural rural employment, which paved

the way for involvement of peasants. With the involvement of peasants and the less fortunate, the

social stratification emerged; the wealthier wanted to be like the wealthiest and thus created a

bridge between themselves and those below them. This became a trickle effect which

singlehandedly created the social stratification of England and Germany alike. Not

coincidentally, the non-agricultural rural areas of sewing, weaving and threading was an industry

Thirsk pioneered with the inclusion of women and children. Due to the strict male employment

rule being thrown out the window, it opened up opportunities for an increase in productivity and

employment among the countrywomen and children, and people all around. While studying Joan
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Thirsk, I found that due to her generation of ways to widen the industry, these non-agricultural

jobs went from male dominated to being considered a female profession.

As we can see, Joan Thirsk contributed immensely to the agricultural history and

modernization of agriculture leading up to today. Sewing, weaving and threading are still

considered a woman profession and women from all walks of life earn a living doing it. Peasants

were essential in labor practices; they needed to pay off debts for their land for rent and taxes.

The wealthier tenants knew this and thus further perpetuated the emergence of the social

stratification and division of classes. Without the peasants, you can’t have the middle class, or

upper classes. Thirsk focused some of her studies on the market labor through her studies of the

consumers and industries in demand and she constantly searched new ways to industrialize

processes and streamline them for better quality of life for all and essentially a better agricultural

system. Germany and Europe became inter-dependent on the market exchange in order to live.

Business became booming for Europeans as they built up their economic system on the back of

agriculture and became highly commercialized.

Conclusion
The History of Agrarian and agriculture has become more and more modernized as

time goes by. They realized that inclusion of peasants, women, and children were essential

to the survival and increase of productivity and profits of agriculture. Changing the mindset

that sewing is a masculine world opened up the job pool for increased employment and

even better, employment of women and children. Europe transitioned to capitalism

through their increase of not only agriculture, but also non-agricultural areas. The

development of classes and social stratification further perpetuated the emergence of a

booming society of capitalism and increases in productivity and profits. “… Students of the

transition from feudalism to capitalism need to pay more attention to the conditions that
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made investment in agriculture profitable, rather than to the technical or organizational

characteristics of feudal agriculture itself’ (Epstein 2007, 264). Profits in agriculture – and,

equally, manufacture – would only be possible in the presence of a market; we need

therefore to move away from the focus on production alone and, recognizing the ‘crucial

role of rural consumer demand in capitalist development’ (Hagen 2011, 265), because it

could provide a powerful incentive to increase production and productivity, turn our

attention also to the growth, nature and dynamic of that demand.” (Ghosh, 2016). The

growth in profit values need for growth, increasing of productivity and increase of

consumption all contributed to Europe’s change to capitalism. Thus, capitalism was born

out of necessity and need rather than convenience.

References:

Ghosh, S. (2016). Rural economies and transitions to capitalism: Germany and England
compared ( c.1200- c.1800). Journal Of Agrarian Change, 16(2), 255-290.
doi:10.1111/joac.12096. Retrieved from https://eds-a-ebscohost-
com.vlib.excelsior.edu/eds/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?vid=5&sid=0ac7e87c-91a4-4460-
87b9-4a93cb3ed751%40sessionmgr4007
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