New EHES working paperDid the heavy plough – as suggested by Lynn White Jr. and many others – lead to economic development during the Middle Ages? This question is investigated in a new EHES working paper by Andersen, Jensen and Skovsgaard, University of Southern Denmark.
|Fig 1: (a)
the old plough, the
and (b) the heavy plough
It is widely believed that the new plough had its breakthrough around AD 1000. Andersen, Jensen and Skovsgaard use this breakthrough year and the regional distribution of clay soil in a difference-in-difference setup in order to investigate whether the heavy plough did in fact lead to increased economic development after AD 1000 in areas that stood to benefit the most from the new technology.
|Fig 2: Clay soils and the
establishment of towns in Denmark.|
Using establishment of towns in Denmark (see Figure 2) and cities in Europe as a measure of economic activity, the paper shows that regions more suitable for the heavy plough developed more strongly after its breakthrough (see Figure 3). In the study of Denmark the heavy plough explains more than 40 % of the new towns established between AD 1000 - AD 1300. In the case of Europe it explains more than 15 % of the new cities during the same period.
|Fig. 3. The effects of the heavy plough on the establishment of Danish towns for each 25 year period|
Overall, the paper corroborates the hypothesis that the heavy plough mattered for economic development. This suggests that increases in agricultural productivity can be a powerful driver of development.
The blogpost was written by Christian Skovsgaard, PhD Student, Department of Business and Economics at University of Southern Denmark.
The paper can be downloaded here: http://www.ehes.org/EHES_70.pdf