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Conceptual Issues for the Comparative Study of Agricultural Development


  • Alan L. Olmstead


  • Paul W. Rhode



This paper begins by addressing the central questions underlying the country-specific essays in this volume: what was the relationship between agricultural development and the development of other sectors? Did agricultural growth support or compete with industrial development? And, was an agricultural revolution a necessary condition for an industrial revolution? We also ask how the growth of the agricultural and non-agricultural sectors during the great transformation of the European economies compared with the relative growth of these two sectors in later developing Asian economies. We next draw on Theodore Schultz’s insights to help frame the comparative study of European development. In addition, we note the shortcomings of the “New Growth Theory” as a tool for historical analysis and explore some of the conceptual pitfalls associated with the use of induced innovation and threshold models—paradigms commonly employed to explain the diffusion of technologies and cropping systems. A better understanding of these two models, and of the broader global experience, suggest a reassessment of important issues in European agricultural development.

Suggested Citation

  • Alan L. Olmstead & Paul W. Rhode, 2006. "Conceptual Issues for the Comparative Study of Agricultural Development," ICER Working Papers 18-2006, ICER - International Centre for Economic Research.
  • Handle: RePEc:icr:wpicer:18-2006

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