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Why was England First? Labour Productivity in English and French Agriculture, 1700-1850
We present new estimates of output and productivity growth in English and French arable farming over the period 1700 to 1850. We find that output and productivity growth in England were lower than previously thought. This is due to previous under-estimation of outputs in the early years and previous under-estimation of inputs in the later years. Most productivity growth (labour, land and TFP) occurred in the period 1700-1775, caused by the diffusion of turnips and clover. We then show that productivity was much higher in England than in France and the gap widened from 1705 to 1775. Land-labour ratios were similar in the two countries, so the differential in labour productivity was caused by higher output per acre in England. This was due primarily to higher grain yields, especially for wheat. The higher English wheat yields were caused by differences in crop rotation and the English adoption of mechanical technology.
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