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as agriculture became entrenched in the south

as agriculture became entrenched in the south

as agriculture became entrenched in the south

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The Plantation System

This article describes the plantation system in America as an instrument of British colonialism characterized by social and political inequality. It links the agricultural prosperity of the South with the domination by wealthy aristocrats and the exploitation of slave labor.

The plantation system developed in the American South as the British colonists arrived in Virginia and divided the land into large areas suitable for farming. Because the economy of the South depended on the cultivation of crops, the need for agricultural labor led to the establishment of slavery.

It also created a society sharply divided along class lines. For this reason, the contrast between the rich and the poor was greater in the South than it was in the North.

as agriculture became entrenched in the south
as agriculture became entrenched in the south


In 1606, King James I formed the Virginia Company of London to establish colonies in America, but when the British arrived, they faced a harsh and foreboding wilderness, and their lives became little more than a struggle for survival.

So, to make settling the land more attractive, the Virginia Company offered any adult man with the means to travel to America 50 acres of land. These settlements were much like the colonies themselves. The wealthy aristocrats who owned them established their own rules and practices. African slaves began arriving in Virginia in 1619.


The term “plantation” arose as the southern settlements, originally linked with colonial expansion, came to revolve around the production of agriculture. Though wealthy aristocrats ruled the plantations, the laborers powered the system.

Tobacco and cotton proved to be exceptionally profitable. Because these crops required large areas of land, the plantations grew in size, and in turn, more slaves were required to work on the plantations. This sharpened class divisions, as a small number of people owned larger and larger plantations. Thus, the wealthy landowners got wealthier, and the use of slave labor increased.


Douglas V. Armstrong is an anthropologist from New York whose studies on plantation slavery have been focused on the Caribbean. In the Caribbean, as well as in the slave states, the shift from small-scale farming to industrial agriculture transformed the culture of these societies, as their economic prosperity depended on the plantation.

Until the transatlantic slave trade was abolished in 1807, over 12 million Africans were transported to the New World, and over 90 percent of them went to the Caribbean and South America, many to work on sugar plantations. Throughout the New World, the plantation served as an institution in itself, characterized by social and political inequality, racial conflict, and domination by the planter class.

as agriculture became entrenched in the south
as agriculture became entrenched in the south

History of agriculture

The history of agriculture records the domestication of plants and animals and the development and dissemination of techniques for raising them productively. Agriculture began independently in different parts of the globe, and included a diverse range of taxa.

However, domestication did not occur until much later.

Early development

Early people began altering communities of flora and fauna for their own benefit through means. Such as fire-stick farming and forest gardening very early. Wild grains have been collected and eaten from at least 105,000 years ago, and possibly much longer. Exact dates are hard to determine, as people collected and ate seeds before domesticating them. And plant characteristics may have changed during this period without human selection.

An example is the semi-tough rachis and larger seeds of cereals from just after the Younger Dryas (about 9500 BC) in the early Holocene in the Levant region of the Fertile Crescent.

10,500 years ago

Agriculture began independently in different parts of the globe, and included a diverse range of taxa. Some of the earliest known domestications were of animals. Domestic pigs had multiple centres of origin in Eurasia, including Europe, East Asia and Southwest Asia, where wild boar were first domesticated about 10,500 years ago.

Cattle were domesticated from the wild aurochs in the areas of modern Turkey and Pakistan around 8500 BC. Camels were domesticated late, perhaps around 3000 BC.

9400-9500 BC

It was not until after 9500 BC that the eight so-called founder crops of agriculture appear: first emmer and einkorn wheat, then hulled barley, peas, lentils, bitter vetch, chick peas and flax.

Spice trade

This migration event also saw the introduction of cultivated and domesticated food plants from Taiwan, Island Southeast Asia, and New Guinea into the Pacific Islands as canoe plants. Contact with Sri Lanka and Southern India by Austronesian sailors also led to an exchange of food plants which later became the origin of the valuable spice trade.

In the 1st millennium AD, Austronesian sailors also settled Madagascar and the Comoros. They bringing Southeast Asian and South Asian food plants with them to the East African coast, including bananas and rice. Rice was also spread southwards into Mainland Southeast Asia by around 2000 to 1500 BC by the migrations of the early Austroasiatic and Kra-Dai-speakers.

as agriculture became entrenched in the south
as agriculture became entrenched in the south

11,000 years ago

Rice was domesticated in China by 6200 BC with earliest known cultivation from 5700 BC, followed by mung, soy and azuki beans. Pigs were domesticated in Mesopotamia around 11,000 years ago, followed by sheep between 11,000 years ago and 9000 BC.


On the other hand, slavery was vigorously debated in all of the Northwest Territories–losing a close vote in Illinois as late as 1824. Evidence from three outlying slave regions–the Kentucky bluegrass, Missouri’s “Little Dixie,” and the wheat belt of Virginia–shows that slavery could adapt readily to crops and regions commonly considered ideal for family farms, so long as land values were sufficiently high.

Drawing on census samples collected by James Irwin, the essay argues that the peculiar affinity between slavery and wheat-growing in Virginia can best be explained by property rights. Specifically, control over a captive labor force allowed slaveowners to expand wheat acreage without fear of the harvest peak.

All aspects of agricultural history

Agricultural History is the journal of record in the field. As such, it publishes articles on all aspects of the history of agriculture and rural life with no geographical or temporal limits.

Currently the membership includes agricultural economists, anthropologists, economists, environmentalists, historians, historical geographers, rural sociologists, and a variety of independent scholars.

20th century

Dan Albone constructed the first commercially successful gasoline-powered general purpose tractor in 1901. And the 1923 International Harvester Farmall tractor marked a major point in the replacement of draft animals with machines.

They leading modern farms to output much greater volumes of high-quality produce per land unit.


The Haber-Bosch method for synthesizing ammonium nitrate represented a major breakthrough and allowed crop yields to overcome previous constraints. It was first patented by German chemist Fritz Haber. In 1910 Carl Bosch, while working for German chemical company BASF, successfully commercialized the process and secured further patents. After World War II, the use of synthetic fertilizer increased rapidly. In sync with the increasing world population.

Another consequence occurred during the Great Leap Forward in China initiated by Mao Tse-tung. That resulted in the Great Chinese Famine from 1959 to 1961 and ultimately reshaped the thinking of Deng Xiaoping.

In the past century agriculture has been characterized by increased productivity, the substitution of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides for labour, water pollution, and farm subsidies. Other applications of scientific research since 1950 in agriculture include gene manipulation, hydroponics, and the development of economically viable biofuels such as ethanol.


The number of people involved in farming in industrial countries fell radically from 24 percent of the American population to 1.5 percent in 2002. The number of farms also decreased and their ownership became more concentrated. For example, between 1967 and 2002, one million pig farms in America consolidated into 114,000. With 80 percent of the production on factory farms. According to the Worldwatch Institute, 74 percent of the world’s poultry, 43 percent of beef.

Green Revolution

The Green Revolution was a series of research, development, and technology transfer initiatives, between the 1940s and the late 1970s. It increased agriculture production around the world, especially from the late 1960s. The initiatives, led by Norman Borlaug and credited with saving over a billion people from starvation.

Synthetic nitrogen, along with mined rock phosphate, pesticides and mechanization, have greatly increased crop yields in the early 20th century. Increased supply of grains has led to cheaper livestock as well.

as agriculture became entrenched in the south
as agriculture became entrenched in the south

Thomas Malthus

The Green Revolution exported the technologies (including pesticides and synthetic nitrogen) of the developed world to the developing world. Thomas Malthus famously predicted that the Earth would not be able to support its growing population. But technologies such as the Green Revolution have allowed the world to produce a surplus of food.

Although the Green Revolution at first significantly increased rice yields in Asia, yield then levelled off. The genetic “yield potential” has increased for wheat. But the yield potential for rice has not increased since 1966. And the yield potential for maize has “barely increased in 35 years”. It takes only a decade or two for herbicide-resistant weeds to emerge. And insects become resistant to insecticides within about a decade, delayed somewhat by crop rotation.

Organic agriculture

For most of its history, agriculture has been organic, without synthetic fertilisers or pesticides, and without GMOs. With the advent of chemical agriculture, Rudolf Steiner called for farming without synthetic pesticides. And his Agriculture Course of 1924 laid the foundation for biodynamic agriculture. Lord Northbourne developed these ideas and presented his manifesto of organic farming in 1940.

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