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Environment and History

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Environment and History

The Limits of Agricultural Growth in the Nineteenth Century: A Case Study from the Mediterranean World

Manuel Gonzalez de Molina

Environment and History 7(2001): 473-499

This paper examines the incidence of environmental factors in the economic growth experienced by the Spanish agricultural sector during the 19th century. Using the principle of Coevolution between Nature and Society, this paper aims to verify a fundamental hypothesis which, in our view, suggest a new way of looking at the past of Mediterranean agriculture and its late incorporation into the more advanced agricultural world. The traditional view considers the low yield per hectare of the main cereals to be an indication of the relative backwardness of Southern Spanish agriculture, here the importance of environmental factors is asserted, at least until its complete transformation into an industrial-type agriculture, based on fossil fuels. Here, the relative backwardness will be explained not only by deficiencies in productivity, capital investment or diffusion of new technology, but principally by the comparative ecological disadvantages that areas such as Andalusia had in comparison with Northern Europe, if an agricultural growth based on cereals were to be chosen.

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