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