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Creating Abundance: Biological Innovation and American Agricultural Development--An appreciation and research agenda


  • Atack, Jeremy
  • Coclanis, Peter
  • Grantham, George


In their new book, Creating Abundance: Biological Innovation and American Agricultural Development (Cambridge, 2008), Olmstead and Rhode offer a radically new interpretation of American agricultural development from the late 18th to early 20th century. While earlier scholars have ascribed a central role to mechanization, Olmstead and Rhode argue that dramatic biological gains were made by an army of improving farmers responding to the challenges of insect pests, biological pathogens, new soils and movement into new climatic zones. These gains remained largely hidden because of the way most statistics have been presented and discussed. By teasing out these advances from the historical record, Olmstead and Rhode not only challenge interpretations about the nature of agricultural development in the United States but also open up a whole new research agenda that promises to revitalize the field of agricultural history here and elsewhere.

Suggested Citation

  • Atack, Jeremy & Coclanis, Peter & Grantham, George, 2009. "Creating Abundance: Biological Innovation and American Agricultural Development--An appreciation and research agenda," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 46(1), pages 160-167, January.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:exehis:v:46:y:2009:i:1:p:160-167

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Anonymous, 1975. "Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Prices, 1974," Statistical Bulletin 154123, United States Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service.
    2. Stewart, James I., 2006. "Migration to the agricultural frontier and wealth accumulation, 1860-1870," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 43(4), pages 547-577, October.
    3. Elizabeth Hoffman & Gary D. Libecap, 1994. "Political Bargaining and Cartelization in the New Deal: Orange Marketing Orders," NBER Chapters,in: The Regulated Economy: A Historical Approach to Political Economy, pages 189-222 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Lebergott, Stanley, 1985. "The Demand for Land: The United States, 1820–1860," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 45(02), pages 181-212, June.
    5. Bennett, Merrill K. & Peirce, Rosamond H., 1961. "Change in the American National Diet, 1879-1959," Food Research Institute Studies, Stanford University, Food Research Institute, issue 02.
    6. Steckel, Richard H., 1983. "The economic foundations of East-West migration during the 19th century," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 20(1), pages 14-36, January.
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