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"Where there's Muck there's Brass" The Market for Manure in the Industrial Revolution


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  • Liam Brunt

    (Nuffield College, Oxford)

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    Between 1700 and 1850, English grain yields were substantially higher than those attained in other countries. It is widely believed that yields were constrained by the availability of nitrogen, and that supplies of nitrogen were effectively limited to animal dung produced on the farm. This paper presents the first systematic analysis of off-farm sources of nitrogen, such as urban and industrial waste. We show that the use of off-farm nitrogen was both widespread and intensive by 1700, contrary to the received wisdom. We further argue that there was only modest growth in the use of off-farm nitrogen up to 1850. We explain this pattern of use of off-farm nitrogen by supply and demand factors. We use a new method of estimation to show that the overall impact was to raise wheat yields by a constant 20 per cent throughout the period.

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    Bibliographic Info

    Paper provided by Economics Group, Nuffield College, University of Oxford in its series Oxford University Economic and Social History Series with number _035.

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    Length: 40 pages
    Date of creation: 01 Feb 2000
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    Handle: RePEc:nuf:esohwp:_035

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    Keywords: agriculture; renewable resources; extractive industries;

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    1. Allen, Robert C. & Ó Gráda, Cormac, 1988. "On the Road Again with Arthur Young: English, Irish, and French Agriculture during the Industrial Revolution," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 48(01), pages 93-116, March.
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    Cited by:
    1. Mohammad Niaz Asadullah, 2006. "Educational Disparity in East and West Pakistan, 1947–71: Was East Pakistan Discriminated Against?," Oxford University Economic and Social History Series _063, Economics Group, Nuffield College, University of Oxford.
    2. Guillaume Daudin, 2008. "Domestic Trade and Market Size in Late Eighteenth-Century France," Economics Series Working Papers 69, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.
    3. Jane Humphries & Tim Leunig, 2007. "Cities, Market Integration and Going to Sea: Stunting and the Standard of Living in Early Nineteenth-Century England and Wales," Economics Series Working Papers 2007-W66, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.
    4. Regina Grafe & Camilla Brautaset, 2006. "The Quiet Transport Revolution: Returns to Scale, Scope and Network Density in Norway`s Nineteenth-Century Sailing Fleet," Economics Series Working Papers 2006-W62, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.


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