Scottish Agricultural Revolution

From Academic Kids

The Agricultural Revolution in Scotland began in the mid-eighteenth century with the improvements of the lowland farmland and the beginning of a transformation of Scottish agriculture from one of the most backward into what was to become the most modern and productive system in Europe.

The traditional system of agriculture in Lowland Scotland had existed unchanged for hundreds of years. In many ways it was a totally rural economy, the land being worked by the cottars on the centuries-old runrig system of subsistence farming.

The Agricultural Revolution led directly to what is increasingly becoming known as the Lowland Clearances, when hundreds of thousands of cottars and tenant farmers from the southern counties of Scotland were, in many cases, forcibly moved from the farms and small holdings they had occupied for hundreds of years.

Many small settlements were torn down, their occupants forced either to the new purpose-built villages built by the landowners such as John Cockburn of Ormiston to house the displaced cottars on the outskirts of the new ranch-style farms, or to the new industrial centres of Glasgow, Edinburgh or northern England.

There, some they found employment in the new industries of cotton or linen weaving. Tens of thousands of others emigrated to the newly opened-up colonies of Canada and the northern states of the United States, finding opportunities there to own and farm their own land.

Some chose to remain on the land, either by choice or out of sheer necessity, but rents were increased to the extent that tenant or sub-tenant were eventually forced to sell. Consequently, the cottars and their way of life disappeared altogether in many parts of southern Scotland.

However, in time, the improvements in agriculture in the Lowlands, the so-called Age of Improvement, led to a more stable and modern system of agricultural production which was to make Scotland the envy of Europe.

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