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What'S Space Got To Do With It? Distance And Agricultural Productivity Before The Railway Age

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  • George Grantham

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Abstract

This paper argues that the conventional Malthusian account of pre-modern economies as constrained by diminishing returns resulting from a fixed land supplied is flawed because it does not recognize the importance of systematic indivisibilities in the production and distribution of farm produce that supported increasing return to additional inputs when the demand price of produce warranted them. Those indivisibilities locked in low-intensity farming practices in places where the demand for produce was diffuse. Most of pre-industrial Europe was in that situation, so average agricultural productivity was low. It was only in regions where urban concentrations of consumers aggregated demand to a level capable of inducing extra investment to exploit latent returns to scale in farming and transportation that the productivity of traditional mixed farming achieved its full potential.

Suggested Citation

  • George Grantham, 2010. "What'S Space Got To Do With It? Distance And Agricultural Productivity Before The Railway Age," Departmental Working Papers 2010-04, McGill University, Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:mcl:mclwop:2010-04
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    File URL: http://www.mcgill.ca/files/economics/Space_Revised_Version.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    14. repec:cup:jechis:v:61:y:2002:i:03:p:663-698_03 is not listed on IDEAS
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • N00 - Economic History - - General - - - General
    • N5 - Economic History - - Agriculture, Natural Resources, Environment and Extractive Industries
    • N7 - Economic History - - Economic History: Transport, International and Domestic Trade, Energy, and Other Services
    • Q1 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Agriculture
    • R00 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - General - - - General
    • R1 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - General Regional Economics

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