Book Series Rural History in Europe, vol. 12

Agricultural specialisation and rural patterns of development

Annie Antoine (ed)

  • Pages: 304 p.
  • Size:156 x 234 mm
  • Illustrations:6 b/w
  • Language(s):English
  • Publication Year:2016

  • ISBN: 978-2-503-53228-8
  • Paperback
  • Available
  • ISBN: 978-2-503-55932-2
  • E-book
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Annie Antoine, professor of modern history at Rennes 2 University (Brittany, France), specialises in the history of rural societies and farming practices. Her latest book is a history of the rural landscape in Western France.


In agricultural history, specialisation is usually considered as progress, turning peasants into market-orientated farmers and allowing them to escape from self-sufficiency. Recent developments in the field of productivist agriculture and the recent rise of alternative agriculture cast doubt on this conventional concept of agricultural specialisation. Several questions arise: Did specialisation necessarily mean that farms concentrated on a single product? Was it always a great step forward? Did it occur in the same form in earlier centuries as in contemporary economies?

The chapters of this book draw attention to several factors relevant to processes of specialisation, such as markets, transport, and the natural environment. The contributions deal with regions in 10 countries of Europe, from Sweden to Spain and from England to Bulgaria, and with periods between the seventeenth and the twentieth centuries. They suggest several conclusions. Specialisation can take place in various forms, ranging from focussing on a single major cash crop to giving preference to a combination of products. This is true both at the level of an individual farm as at a regional level. Specialisation did not always improve the farmers’ standard of living. And it was neither a linear nor an irreversible process. This can be observed in periods of war, but also in recent developments in post-communist countries.



Laurent Hermend & Annie Antoine, Specialisation in rural history: towards a definition

I. Specialisation: the result of farming skills

Paul Servais, Early specialisations and late specialisations in the rural area around Liège: an evaluation at the beginning of the twentieth century

Martine Cocaud, An early form of specialised agriculture in Western France

Gérard Le Bouëdec, Agricultural specialisations and the sea, seventeenth to nineteenth centuries

Magnus Bohman, A matter of geography? Agricultural specialisation in Southern Sweden (Scania), 1732-1864

II. Disruptions and their impact on specialisation

Andreas Kulhawy, In transition from a 'traditional' to a 'specialised' agriculture: farming in the Duchy of Brunswick between the eighteenth and twentieth century

Pavel Matlas, Intensification without specialisation. The development of a South-Bohemian manorial estate in the nineteenth century

Hrabrin Bachev, Post-Communist transition in Bulgaria. Implications for the development of agricultural specialisation and farming structures

John Martin, The impact of the British food production campaign (1939-1945) on agricultural specialisation and rural patterns of development: a reappraisal

III. The impact of agricultural specialisation on traditional socio-economic systems

María Teresa Pérez Picazo, The balance between subsistence and specialisation in the huertas of the Segura: an example from the farms of a large nineteenth-century landowner

Carin Martiin, Specialisation in dairying. A rapid transformation in Denmark and a drawn-out process in Sweden

Matti Peltonen, The iron cage of dairy farming. Self-sufficiency and specialisation in Finnish peasant farming at the beginning of the twentieth century

Erich Landsteiner, Wine-growing and agricultural specialisation in Late Medieval and Early Modern Europe

Benoît Musset, The rapid expansion of vine-growing in the Epernay vineyards, 1650 to 1830: the necessary creation of a vine-growing proletariat

Pia Nilsson, Hop-farming in specialisation in seventeenth-century Swedish rural society