chapter  1
14 Pages

Agricultural modernisation during the long nineteenth century

3Connections, comparisons, and commodity frontiers
ByJoe Regan, Cathal Smith

This chapter provides an interpretative framework for the understanding of agricultural reform and resistance on a global scale during the long nineteenth century (c. 1780–1914). Drawing lessons from recent scholarship on New World slavery, it argues that rural regions and agrarian labour systems throughout Europe, the Americas, and the wider world experienced distinct but comparable processes of modernisation in this period, as commercial agricultural production was everywhere affected by the changes in patterns of demand caused by the Industrial Revolution. In response, the heterogeneous regions that participated in the world economy as “peripheral” suppliers of agricultural commodities witnessed various processes of reform. This, in turn, often provoked resistance among rural workers, both legally unfree and free. Agricultural modernisation was characterised by the resulting negotiations between reform and resistance, which ultimately facilitated the continued expansion of global capitalism. This argument provides an overarching framework for the chapters that follow, which examine how activities related to agrarian modernisation played out in local, national, and transnational contexts within the “Euro-American world” and beyond between the late eighteenth and early twentieth centuries.