The term agricultural revolution refers to the radical changes in the method of agriculture in England in the 17th and 18th centuries. There was a massive increase in agricultural productivity, which supported the growing population. The Agricultural Revolution preceded the Industrial Revolution in England. During the Agricultural Revolution, four key changes took place in agricultural practices. They were enclosure of lands, mechanization of farming, four-field crop rotation, and selective breeding of domestic animals.
Prior to the agricultural revolution, the practice of agriculture had been much the same across Europe since the Middle Ages. The open field system was essentially feudal. Each farmer engaged in cultivation in common land and dividing the produce.
From the beginning of 12th century, some of the common fields in Britain were enclosed into individually owned fields. This process rapidly accelerated in the 15th and 16th centuries as sheep farming grew more profitable. This led to farmers losing their land and their grazing rights. Many farmers became unemployed. In the 16th and 17th centuries, the practice of enclosure was denounced by the Church, and legislation was drawn up against it. However, the mechanization of agriculture during the 18th century required large, enclosed fields. This led to a series of government acts, culminating finally in the General Enclosure Act of 1801. By the end of the 19th century the process of enclosure was largely complete.
Great experiments were conducted in farming
during this period. Machines were introduced for seeding and harvesting.
Rotation of crops was introduced by Townshend. The lands became fertile by this
method. Bakewell introduced scientific breeding of farm animals. The
horse-drawn ploughs, rake, portable threshers, manure spreaders, multiple
ploughs and dairy appliances had revolutionized farming. These changes in agriculture
increased food production as well as other farm outputs.