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WHAT'S SPACE GOT TO DO WITH IT? DISTANCE AND AGRICULTURAL PRODUCTIVITY BEFORE THE RAILWAY AGE

George Grantham

Departmental Working Papers from McGill University, Department of Economics

Abstract: Owing to the high cost of transporting farm produce before the railway age, the land-intensiveness of European mixed farming caused both production and consumption of foodstuffs and intermediate farm inputs in the steady state to be highly dispersed, a spatial configuration offering weak inducement to reorganize farm structure or to invest available labour and capital with a view to increasing output. In such conditions the most common cause of rising agricultural productivity was spatial concentration of demand, which raised the demand price of farm produce and farm inputs within the privileged space bounded by discontinuities in the cost of land transport. The ultimate cause of observed changes in agricultural productivity before the nineteenth century must therefore be sought outside the farming sector in the development of markets for tradable manufactures, tradable services, and the economies of scale in their provision that supported spatial concentration of population.

JEL-codes: B10 N53 N74 N93 O18 Q13 R12 R14 R40 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Pages: 50 pages
Date: 2007-09
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-agr, nep-eff, nep-geo and nep-his
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