chapter  VII
14 Pages

The Beginnings of Agriculture

AT the same time as he sought to domesticate animals, man sought to domesticate plants. On other territory he pursued the same course. Agriculture, indeed, is intimately connected with the raising of cattle, not only because cattle are necessary for heavy work and for the manure which they supply, but because it pursues a similar aim. Again it is a case of taming what is wild, of modifying and multiplying for the advantage of man that which grows of itself from the earth. Again it is a case of creating life, of choosing between plants, of reproducing and perfecting those which are of service to him and of destroying those which are not. Here too, man is obliged to contend against forces which he cannot control. When he placed the grain in the soil he had to wait till a mysterious process was accomplished beneath it. He had to make frost and heat, rain, snow, and sun his allies. He had to show great patience and see far ahead. He had to observe the periodicity of the seasons and fit his work to it. That explains why agriculture was a late development in countries with a special climate. It originated probably on sun-bathed plateaux, while the valleys were still swamps, then in countries where the soil was light, fertile, and well-watered, that is, in plains intersected by streams and in alluvial land.