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The heavy plough and the agricultural revolution in medieval Europe

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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. Consistent with the hypothesis, we find that regions with relatively more fertile clay soil experienced increased urbanization and population after the plough had its breakthrough, which was approximately around the closing of the first millennium AD. We find that the heavy plough accounts for more than 10% of the increase in population density and urbanization during the high middle ages.

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File URL: http://static.sdu.dk/mediafiles//4/8/F/%7B48FEFDFF-12D8-4367-9A7F-61E2A5D3C294%7Ddpbe6_2013b.pdf
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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Department of Business and Economics, University of Southern Denmark in its series Discussion Papers of Business and Economics with number 6/2013.

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Length: 54 pages
Date of creation: 08 Mar 2013
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:hhs:sdueko:2013_006

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Postal: Department of Business and Economics, University of Southern Denmark, Campusvej 55, DK-5230 Odense M, Denmark
Phone: 65 50 32 33
Fax: 65 50 32 37
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Web page: http://www.sdu.dk/ivoe
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Keywords: Heavy plough; medieval technology; agricultural productivity;

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Cited by:
  1. Alan Fernihough & Kevin Hjortshøj O'Rourke, 2014. "Coal and the European Industrial Revolution," The Institute for International Integration Studies Discussion Paper Series, IIIS iiisdp439, IIIS.

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