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Effects of Agriculture on the Industrial Revolution – Foundations of Western Culture:

Effects of Agriculture on the Industrial Revolution

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How did changes in agriculture help bring about the industrial revolution?

Before the Industrial Revolution, agriculture workers labored six days a week, from sun up to sun down, just to keep their crops growing.1 Certain seasons were more demanding than others, specifically the plowing and harvest seasons.2 Because of the intensity and necessity of agricultural labor, it was the largest employment source in Europe.3 Men, women and children worked side by side to feed the country. Often if the father was a farm owner and worker, his entire family labored alongside him. Working in agriculture was not just a job it but often a lifestyle for families.4

Though the labor was difficult, agricultural work became the largest source of employment because of the ‘self-supply’ benefit, which is the ability to stock their own food stores through their own work. Another attractive aspect was the constant high demand of their products.5 The ever rising demand for food provided farming families with a fairly steady income, although there were exceptions because of the uncertainty of crop success.

Because of the difficulty of agricultural work, it became necessary to innovate the agricultural industry, thus beginning the Agricultural Revolution which arguably started in the mid-18th century.6 The Agricultural Revolution helped bring about the Industrial Revolution through innovations and inventions that altered how the farming process worked.7 These new processes in turn created a decline in both the intensity of the work and the number of agricultural laborers needed. Because of the decline in need for agricultural workers, many worked industrial jobs, further fueling the Industrial Revolution.8 At the beginning of the Agricultural Revolution farm hands chose to migrate to the city to work industrial jobs; however, as the decline in need for agricultural workers grew, many were forced to look for work in the industries.

Though there were many contributing aspects to the Agricultural Revolution,the innovations and inventions were one of the largest factors that helped bring about the Industrial Revolutions. This page will focus specifically on five major inventors whose inventions allowed for more people to move to the city for industrial work. Thus allowing the Industrial revolution to begin.

Major Contributors to the Agricultural Revolution

Use the arrows, at the top right-and-left corners to navigate through major contributors to the Agricultural Revolution.


Primary Source

For a primary source on the inventions and innovations that lead to the Agricultural Revolution, as well as normal farming practices during the 18th century, browse chapter XV in The complete English farmer, or, A practical system of husbandry .17 To answer the following questions:

Which hoe is little known but a very useful invention? And what does the author greatly disapprove of?

Thanks for responding! We appriciate your participation


Inventions Quiz

An interactive section to test understanding of inventors and inventions.

What was the main reason for the decline in needed agricultural workers?


Which inventor introduced the Four-year crop rotation to Britain?



Innovations and Inventions were the only factor that drove the Agricultural Revolution.


Positive and Negative Effects

Although the Agricultural Revolution had many positive impacts, there were also negative aspects as well. For starters the number of new inventions and methods of production that the Agricultural Revolution brought meant that changes would be made in organization, management, finance, marketing, and transportation in order for these new techniques to become more effective. Another negative that came from the Agricultural Revolution was the necessary conditions needed for efficient farming, such as; adequate farm buildings, access of roads, drainage of wetlands, transport facilities for marketing, and sources of finance for farmers.These were negative effects seen across Europe by many who joined in the Revolution. Some examples of negatives specific to the inventors mentioned in this page can be seen in both Bakewell’s and Townshend’s inventions. Robert Bakewell’s inbreeding methods had many failed “improved breeds” in his process, possibly as many failed breeds as there were successful breeds. At the same time, Lord Townshend introduced the turnip crop, which is  highly susceptible to failure because of the heavy labor requirements for its success.18  

Compare and Contrast: Agriculture Pre Industrial Revolution vs. Post Industrial Revolution

In this section, compare the agriculture from before the the revolution and what agriculture was like after the revolution.  The questions are listed below.  All of the answers can be found throughout the previous reading.  

Which of the people or  inventions discussed above do you think contributed the most and ultimately brought about the industrial revolution? Why?

Interesting choice! Thank you for responding




The Industrial Revolution was made possible due to the many changes and innovations in the agriculture industry. Major Contributors such as Jethro Tull and Lord Townshend found innovative ways to utilize the land and animals alongside new agricultural machines from Inventors, Robert Bakewell and James Hargreaves.19 Processes like Lord Townshend’s crop rotation and Bakewell’s inbreeding methods allowed for increase in food production; further with all the extra crops, inventions such as the ‘Spinning Jenny’ and the Cotton Gin allowed for the replacement of agricultural workers because machines could do more of the work.20 With a rising population and a large, cheap available work force the Industrial Revolution was made possible. Fewer men were involved in agriculture, which meant that more would find employment in other industries further driving the Industrial Revolution. Though the many inventions and inventors contributed to further drive the Agricultural Revolution, it is also not limited to these factors alone; many other influences helped drive the agricultural revolution, and ultimately the Industrial Revolution.  



1. Sidney, Pollard, Peaceful Conquest: The Industrialization of Europe 1756-1970 (Usa: Oxford University Press, 1981), 192  

2.Merry E. Wiesner, Julius R. Ruff and William Bruce Wheeler, Wiesner, Discovering the Western Past: A Look at the Evidence (Cengage Learning,2015), 134

3. Pollard,192

4. Wiesner, Ruff, and Wheeler, 134

5. Pollard, 192

6. “The Industrial Revolution” Modern World History Interactive Textbook. http://webs.bcp.org/sites/vcleary/ModernWorldHistoryTextbook/index.html.

7. Ulbrand, Brodie. “Agriculture during the Industrial Revolution.” Prezi.com. 09 Sept. 2013. <https://prezi.com/s0bnscmwibms/agriculture-during-the-industrial-revolution/Overton,

8.Professor Mark. “Agricultural Revolution in England 1500-1850”. BBC 17 Feb. 2011.http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/british/empire_seapower/agricultural_revolution_01.shtml

9. Overton, Professor Mark. “Agricultural Revolution in England 1500-1850”. BBC 17 Feb. 2011.http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/british/empire_seapower/agricultural_revolution_01.shtml

10. “Innovations of the Industrial Revolution.” Sea.Ca. 17 Feb. 2003.  http://industrialrevolution.sea.ca/innovations.html.

11. “Innovations of the Industrial Revolution.” Sea.Ca. 17 Feb. 2003.  http://industrialrevolution.sea.ca/innovations.html.

12. Biography.com Editors. “Charles Townshend Biography” A&E Television Networks, LLC. 20 Mar. 2016. http://www.biography.com/people/charles-townshend-9509445#synopsis

13. Burchill, Shirley. Hughes, Nigel. Gale,Richard. Price, Peter. Woodall, Keith. “The Four Field System”. The Open Door Web Site. 29 Mar. 2016. http://www.saburchill.com/history/chapters/IR/003f.html

14. “Robert Bakewell.” Department of Animal Science. Accessed April 21, 2016. http://www.ans.iastate.edu/about/history/people/robert-bakewell.

15. “The Industrial Revolution”

16. “The Industrial Revolution”

17. History.com Staff. 2010 “the cotton gin and Eli Whitney” http://www.history.com/topics/inventions/cotton-gin-and-eli-whitney

18. David, Henry.The complete English farmer, or, A practical system of husbandry (London, F. Newbery, 1771),n.p.

19. Mingay, G. E.. 1969. “Dr. Kerridge’s “agricultural Revolution”: A Comment”. Agricultural History 43 (4). Agricultural History Society: 477–82. http://www.jstor.org/stable/4617725.

20. “Innovations of the Industrial Revolution”; Encyclopedia Britannica Online; “The Industrial Revolution”

21. “The Industrial Revolution”