Books  General Natural History  Environmental History 

Feeding the World: An Economic History of World Agriculture, 1800-2000


Series: Princeton Economic History of the Western World

By: Giovanni Federico (Author)

520 pages, 4 b/w illustrations, 65 tables

Princeton University Press

Paperback | Nov 2008 | #212372 | ISBN-13: 9780691138534
Availability: Usually dispatched within 3 days Details
NHBS Special Offer Price: £18.99 £31.95 (Save £12.96) $23/€22 approx (ends 31/03/2017)
Hardback | Dec 2005 | #154435 | ISBN: 069112051X
Out of Print Details

About this book

In the last two centuries, agriculture has been an outstanding, if somewhat neglected, success story. It has fed an ever-growing population with an increasing variety of products at falling prices, even as it has released a growing number of workers to the rest of the economy. Feeding the World, a comprehensive history of world agriculture during this period, explains how these feats were accomplished.

Feeding the World synthesizes two hundred years of agricultural development throughout the world, providing all essential data and extensive references to the literature. It covers, systematically, all the factors that have affected agricultural performance: environment, accumulation of inputs, technical progress, institutional change, commercialization, agricultural policies, and more. The last chapter discusses the contribution of agriculture to modern economic growth. Feeding the World is global in its reach and analysis, and represents a grand synthesis of an enormous topic.

"In Feeding the World, Giovanni Federico considers agricultural development over the past 200 years an outstanding success story [...] Feeding the World will be of great interest to economists, development specialists and policymakers, and all economic historians should read it. Methodologically, it is an excellent example of a quantitative economic history, grounded in theory but sensitive to empirical realities worldwide. Substantively, it provides an essential context for understanding economic development over the past 200 years on a global scale."
– Mark Overton, Times Higher Education Supplement

"This book provides everything that a mainstream economic history or agricultural history course would want to cover [...] [T]he book [is] [...] useful and highly recommended."
– Thomas R. DeGregori, Journal of Economic Issues

"The range, stance, and clarity of this hugely impressive book make it ideally suited to classroom use at advanced undergraduate or graduate level. It deserves to be widely read, in university libraries and beyond."
– Cormac Ó Gráda, Agricultural History Review

"Giovannia Federico should be congratulated for his efforts in providing what is clearly an impressive synthesis, constituting a significant contribution to our understanding of the changing role and the revolution that has taken place in agricultural production since 1800. It will appeal to a wide readership, encompassing not only the academic community but also lay readers who are interested in how feeding the industrially advanced countries of the world has been successfully achieved."
– John Martin, The Historian

"I recommend this book for those who want to gain a general understanding of the dynamics of world agriculture and who are looking for scientific texts in the field. The rich bibliography can satisfy many people's curiosity in this respect."
– Walter Leimgruber, European Legacy

"This book does more than any other work to bring together economic history and current day issues of policy, particularly in developing countries. It is useful not just for readers in economic history, but in other areas of economics, sociology, and even political science."
– Philip T. Hoffman, California Institute of Technology

"In the past two centuries, farm production has grown faster than the population, so we now produce enough food to abolish hunger around most of the globe. Federico has done a monumental job in documenting the growth of agricultural output, inputs, and productivity on a world scale. This book will be of great interest to all those interested in the interplay between humanity and the natural environment, as well as to historians, development specialists, and policy makers."
– Robert Allen, University of Oxford


List of Illustrations ix
List of Tables ix
Preface xiii

Chapter One: Introduction 1

Chapter Two: Why Is Agriculture Different? 5
2.1 Introduction 5
2.2 Agriculture and the Environment: An Uneasy Relationship 5
2.3 Factor Endowment and the Characteristics of Agriculture 13

Chapter Three: Trends in the Long Run 16
3.1 Introduction 16
3.2 Output 16
3.3 Prices 21
3.4 The Composition of Agricultural Output 26
3.5 Trade 28

Chapter Four: Patterns of Growth: The Inputs 31
4.1 Introduction 31
4.2 Land 31
4.3 Capital 40
4.4 Labor 56
4.5 Conclusion: Factor Endowment and Factor Prices in the Long Run 64

Chapter Five: The Causes of Growth: The Increase in Productivity 69
5.1 Introduction 69
5.2 The Productivity of Land and Labor 70
5.3 The Total Factor Productivity 74
5.4 Conclusion: On the Interpretation of Total Factor Productivity Growth 82

Chapter Six: Technical Progress in Agriculture 83
6.1 Introduction: Productivity Growth and Technical Progress 83
6.2 The Major Innovations 84
6.3 The Macroeconomics of Innovations: Factor Prices and Technical Progress 93
6.4 The Microeconomics of Agricultural Innovation: Appropriability, Complementarity, Environment, and Risk 101
6.5 The Microeconomics of Agricultural Innovation: Research Institutions and Technical Progress 105
6.6 Conclusion: On the Causes of Technical Progress 114

Chapter Seven: The Microeconomics of Agricultural Institutions 117
7.1 Introduction: What Are the Institutions, and Why Should We Care about Them? 117
7.2 Property Rights 118
7.3 The "Structure": Matching Land and Labor 121
7.4 Finding the Money: Formal and Informal Credit 128
7.5 The Co-operative: The Best of All Possible Worlds? 133
7.6 Conclusion: Is There an "Ideal" Farm? 136

Chapter Eight: Agricultural Institutions and Growth 143
8.1 Introduction 143
8.2 Prelude: The Establishing of Modern Property Rights 144
8.3 Meddling with Property Rights: Land Reform and Other Structural Interventions 149
8.4 The "Structural" Change in the Long Run 152
8.5 The Development of Markets 160
8.6 Self-help: The Growth of the Co-operative Movement 168
8.7 Institutions and Agricultural Growth: The Creation of Property Rights and "Structural" Interventions 172
8.8 Institutions and Agricultural Growth: Landownership, Farm Size, and Contracts 177
8.9 Institutions and Agricultural Growth: The Development of Markets 181
8.10 Conclusion: Did Institutions Really Matter? 186

Chapter Nine: The State and the Market 187
9.1 Introduction: On the Design of Agricultural Policies 187
9.2 Before 1914: The Era of Laissez Faire 189
9.3 The Interwar Years: The Great Discontinuity 191
9.4 The OECD Countries after 1945: The Era of Surpluses 196
9.5 The Less Developed Countries after Independence: The Green Revolution and the "Development" Policies 201
9.6 The Socialist Countries 205
9.7 On the Effects of Agricultural Policies 211
9.8 Conclusion: The Political Economy of Agricultural Policies 215

Chapter Ten: Conclusions: Agriculture and Economic Growth in the Long Run 221
10.1 Fifteen Stylized Facts 221
10.2 Agriculture and Economic Growth: Some Theory 222
10.3 Agriculture and Economic Growth: Debates and Historical Evidence 226
10.4 Concluding Remarks: A Look to the Future 231
Statistical Appendix 233

Notes 251
Bibliography 325
Index 381

Write a review

There are currently no reviews for this product. Be the first to review this product!


Giovanni Federico is Professor of Economic History at the European University Institute. He has written extensively on Italian and comparative economic history, with special attention on agriculture, trade, and trade policy. He is the author of An Economic History of the Silk Industry and the coauthor of The Growth of the Italian Economy, 1820-1940.

Bestsellers in this subject

Ancient Woodland

NHBS Price: £84.99 $105/€98 approx

The Triumph of Seeds

NHBS Price: £10.99 $14/€13 approx

Nature and Power

NHBS Price: £21.99 $27/€25 approx

Energy and Civilization

NHBS Price: £32.95 $41/€38 approx

The History of the Countryside

NHBS Price: £14.99 $19/€17 approx