Agriculture & The Death of Ancient Man – Part I
by Edward Le Prieur
The Agricultural Revolution is in my mind when civilization changed the life of man in the most devastating way. We know that for the majority of human history man lived a hunter gatherer lifestyle. Although local populations of villages and the use of fire impacted the environment; the consequences of his actions were small in comparison to that of farmers and the dawn of agriculture.
Agriculture inevitably transforms the land. Partial or in some cases complete removal of natural vegetation. Forests are removed and not allowed to recover, and the distribution of species of plants and animals are disrupted. Arable farming where a plow is utilized greatly alters the soil, both by adding and removing plant nutrients, reducing soil acidity with lime, removing stones and irrigation techniques greatly altering the soil structure.
Most forms of crop production on a large-scale require the complete removal. Such is the case in cereal production in eastern England where not only the original vegetation is vanished, but the surrounding hedges and trees that were once planted around these fields are also being removed. The scale of the once great forests that covered Medieval Europe have been greatly diminished by the ever-growing agricultural expansion. Not only Europe, but all great agricultural civilizations.
In this case Agriculture is both the cause and the solution to the growing population crisis of the period. Agriculture is required provide the food supplies for the population to be sustained; conversely the more the population expands thus so. Agriculture and the more intensive use of land already in cultivation. So the expansion into neighboring forests; previous to this the main objective of farmers was to provide for themselves and their families. comparatively little of their output of crops left the borders of their own land.
Contemporary documents suggest that the expansion of the amount of arable land for the production more or less matched the growth of population with the exception of particularly rapid growth such as the late thirteenth century in Europe. After the migration movements of the first millennium C.E. the main features of European settlement were established; subsequent increases in cropland usually took place in clearing the forests between villages. Slowly the great woodlands of Europe the homes of our ancestors were just beginning to diminish…