The Heavy Plough and the Agricultural Revolution in Medieval Europe

Discussion Papers on Business and Economics, University of Southern Denmark, 6/2013

69 Pages Posted: 5 Dec 2013

See all articles by Thomas Barnebeck Andersen

Thomas Barnebeck Andersen

University of Southern Denmark - Department of Business and Economics

Peter S. Jensen

University of Southern Denmark - Department of Business and Economics

Christian Skovsgaard

University of Southern Denmark - Department of Business and Economics

Date Written: December 3, 2013

Abstract

This research tests the long-standing hypothesis put forth by Lynn White, Jr. (1962) that the adoption of the heavy plough in Northern Europe led to increased population density and urbanization. White argued that it was impossible to take proper advantage of the fertile clay soils of Northern Europe before the invention and widespread adoption of the heavy plough. We implement the test in a difference-in-difference set-up by exploiting regional variation in the presence of fertile clay soils across European regions as well as across Danish historical counties. Consistent with the hypothesis, we find that regions with relatively more fertile clay soil experienced higher urbanization and population growth after the heavy plough had its breakthrough, which was approximately around the closing of the first millennium AD. Our findings suggest that the heavy plough accounts for around 10% of the increase in urbanization and population density during the High Middle Ages.

Keywords: Heavy plough, medieval technology, agricultural productivity

JEL Classification: J1, N1, N93, O1, O33

Suggested Citation

Andersen, Thomas Barnebeck and Jensen, Peter S. and Skovsgaard, Christian, The Heavy Plough and the Agricultural Revolution in Medieval Europe (December 3, 2013). Discussion Papers on Business and Economics, University of Southern Denmark, 6/2013. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2362894 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2362894

Thomas Barnebeck Andersen

University of Southern Denmark - Department of Business and Economics ( email )

Campusvej 55
DK-5230 Odense, 5000
Denmark

Peter S. Jensen (Contact Author)

University of Southern Denmark - Department of Business and Economics ( email )

Campusvej 55
DK-5230 Odense M, 5230
Denmark

HOME PAGE: http://www.sam.sdu.dk/staff/psj

Christian Skovsgaard

University of Southern Denmark - Department of Business and Economics ( email )

DK-5230 Odense
Denmark

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