Advanced Search
MyIDEAS: Login

Why did the First Farmers Toil? Human Metabolism and the Origins of Agriculture

Contents:

Author Info

  • Jacob Weisdorf

    (Department of Economics, University of Copenhagen)

Abstract

Time-budget studies done among contemporary primitive people suggest that the first farmers worked harder to attain subsistence than their foraging predecessors. This makes the adoption of agriculture in the Stone Age one of the major curiosities in human cultural history. Theories offered by economists and economic historians largely fail to capture work-intensification among early farmers. Attributing a key role to human metabolism, this study provides a simple framework for analysing the adoption of agriculture. It demonstrates how the additional output that farming offered could have lured people into agriculture, but that subsequent population increase would eventually have swallowed up its benefits, forcing early farmers into an irreversible trap, where they had to do more work to attain subsistence compared to their foraging ancestors. The framework draws attention to the fact that, if agriculture arose out of need, as some scholars have suggested, then this was because pre-historic foragers turned down agriculture in the first place. Estimates of population growth before and after farming, however, in light of the present framework seem to suggest that hunters were pulled rather than pushed into agriculture.

Download Info

If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.
File URL: http://www.econ.ku.dk/english/research/publications/wp/2008/0815.pdf/
Download Restriction: no

Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by University of Copenhagen. Department of Economics in its series Discussion Papers with number 08-15.

as in new window
Length: 16 pages
Date of creation: Jul 2008
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:kud:kuiedp:0815

Contact details of provider:
Postal: Øster Farimagsgade 5, Building 26, DK-1353 Copenhagen K., Denmark
Phone: (+45) 35 32 30 10
Fax: +45 35 32 30 00
Email:
Web page: http://www.econ.ku.dk
More information through EDIRC

Related research

Keywords: agriculture; hunting-gathering; Malthus; metabolism; Neolithic revolution;

Other versions of this item:

Find related papers by JEL classification:

This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:

References

References listed on IDEAS
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:
as in new window
  1. Ashraf, Quamrul & Galor, Oded, 2008. "Human Genetic Diversity and Comparative Economic Development," CEPR Discussion Papers 6824, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  2. Galor, Oded & Moav, Omer, 2001. "Natural Selection and the Origin of Economic Growth," CEPR Discussion Papers 2727, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  3. Oded Galor & Quamrul Ashraf, 2007. "Cultural Assimilation, Cultural Diffusion and the Origin of the Wealth of Nations," Working Papers 2007-3, Brown University, Department of Economics.
  4. Oded Galor & Omer Moav, 2007. "The Neolithic Revolution and Contemporary Variations in Life Expectancy," Working Papers 2007-14, Brown University, Department of Economics.
  5. Olsson, Ola & Hibbs, Douglas Jr., 2005. "Biogeography and long-run economic development," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 49(4), pages 909-938, May.
  6. anonymous, 1968. "Excessive demand slowing?," Review, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, issue Sep, pages 2-5.
  7. Kremer, Michael, 1993. "Population Growth and Technological Change: One Million B.C. to 1990," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 108(3), pages 681-716, August.
  8. Seabright, Paul, 2008. "Warfare and the Multiple Adoption of Agriculture After the Last Ice Age," IDEI Working Papers 522, Institut d'Économie Industrielle (IDEI), Toulouse.
  9. Nicolas Marceau & Gordon Myers, 2006. "On the Early Holocene: Foraging to Early Agriculture," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 116(513), pages 751-772, 07.
  10. Smith, Vernon L, 1975. "The Primitive Hunter Culture, Pleistocene Extinction, and the Rise of Agriculture," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 83(4), pages 727-55, August.
  11. Gregory Clark, 2007. "Introduction to A Farewell to Alms: A Brief Economic History of the World
    [A Farewell to Alms: A Brief Economic History of the World]
    ," Introductory Chapters, Princeton University Press.
Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

Citations

Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.
as in new window

Cited by:
  1. Ricardo Andrés Guzmán & Jacob Louis Weisdorf, 2010. "The Neolithic Revolution from a Price-Theoretic Perspective," Discussion Papers 10-13, University of Copenhagen. Department of Economics.
  2. Sara LaLumia & James Sallee, 2011. "The Value of Honesty: Empirical Estimates from the Case of the Missing Children," Department of Economics Working Papers 2011-05, Department of Economics, Williams College.
  3. Quamrul Ashraf & Oded Galor, 2010. "Dynamics and Stagnation in the Malthusian Epoch," Center for Development Economics 2010-07, Department of Economics, Williams College, revised May 2011.
  4. Rowthorn, Robert & Seabright, Paul, 2010. "Property Rights, Warfare and the Neolithic Transition," TSE Working Papers 10-207, Toulouse School of Economics (TSE).

Lists

This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

Statistics

Access and download statistics

Corrections

When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:kud:kuiedp:0815. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Thomas Hoffmann).

If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.