The current archaeological evidence has suggested that anatomical human beings have existed since about 200,000 years to about 300,000 years ago. However, there has been no evidence to suggest that agricultural activities existed before the 15,000 to 20,000 years ago. Therefore, it has been believed that those ancestors only relied majorly on hunting and gathering. However, with increased competition for food and the need for a settled life, early hominids started domestication of crops and animals which led to the development of agriculture. Around 10,000 years ago, humans started to develop means of nature that would ensure they met their needs, especially regarding food. Therefore, it is believed that agriculture emerged in various areas such as Mesopotamia, South America, China, and Sub-Saharan Africa. The period in which agriculture emerged and major agricultural developments took place is referred to as the Neolithic period. Having started around 12,000 years ago, early agriculture was influenced by massive environmental changes and impacted significantly on the lives of people from ancient times to the renaissance period.
Taking root around 10,000 to about 15,000 years ago, agricultural development was seen to have triggered massive changes in the society regarding the way people lived, making the period be termed as a Neolithic revolution. It should be noted that the traditional hunter-gatherer lifestyle, that was followed by the human beings since the evolution period would be replaced by the favor of settled life in permanent settlements which necessitated supply of stable and reliable food. Therefore, agriculture led to the development of cities hence facilitating civilization as well as an increase in human population due to more supply of reliable food. However, it should be noted that a myriad of factors influenced farming in different parts of the world. In some areas like the East, it is believed that agriculture developed due to the climatic changes following the end of the glacial period which brought climatic conditions that would favor annual plants. However, in other places like East Asia, it is believed that there was an increased pressure regarding the natural food resources that may have forced the early humans to find homegrown solutions. During the pre-historic period, there was increased management of food supplies regardless of the activating reasons, which meant that the society would produce more food to support denser populations hence impacting significantly on settlements.
During the early agricultural developments, the domestication of agriculture is seen as the first major development that included the domestication of wild progenitors of crops such as barley, wheat, and peas as can be traced towards the Near East region. Evidence demonstrates that in around 9,000 years ago, cereals were being grown in Syria including the cultivation of fig trees which may have even started earlier. Discoveries have established the pre-historic seedless fruits that were found in the Jordan Valley that suggest that fig trees were grown as early as 11,300 years ago. However, it is the transition of wild harvesting that is noted to have been gradual due to the slow rate of nomadic settlement. In the Chinese region, it is believed that rice was one of the oldest crops that characterized the Neolithic period in that region. In areas like Mexico, it is established that squash cultivation may have begun around 10,000 years ago. However, the developments in the cultivation of corn had to wait for some time due to the natural genetic mutations. However, the first-maize like crops are established to have been farmed around 9,000 years ago while the modern corn may have developed around 5,500 years ago. These developments in agricultural farming demonstrate the major economic changes that took place during the early period of human history that influenced other social and political issues.
By engaging actively in the management of food supplies, the early society developed to an agricultural society that was able to produce enough food hence favoring a settled life. This not only led to the increased population but also facilitated unique setups for humankind that defined their social-cultural activities. With the increased population that was supported by increased food, there was an increase in trade. Different people started engaging in various economic activities especially making different items that would be traded using the barter trade with agricultural products, hence making farmers to increase their farm produce since they would trade it for other necessities. Non-farmers specialized in making other items and trading goods that enhanced the development of trade and economic activities during this early period. It should be noted that the increased in productivity meant an increase in creativity and hence a creation of better living structures, weapons, tools, as well as the rise of organized governance that would oversee and protect the community. Within just hundreds of years since the development of early agriculture, the development of cities started which impacted on the bureaucratic taxes and other forms and necessities of administration.
The development of agriculture took a new shape during the middle ages period where different agricultural systems would be used hence making farming even more developed and productive. During this period, farming was done using the summer crop, winter crop, and lay fallow agricultural systems. The farmers during this period who mainly entailed the peasant and serfs had the knowledge of rudimentary fertilizers implying that about two-thirds of the farming land was cultivated each year. One of the common methods of fertilizing the land was referred to as marling. Manure from livestock would also be used during this period. During the period, raring of animals was also common although it would be characterized by being unhealthy due to lack of proper medication. However, with increased farming knowledge, the increased agricultural outputs made agriculture a core economic activity in the community during this period which facilitated better and improved lifestyles. Many people became farmers to sustain themselves which led to the development of feudalism that established land as a property to sustain the needs of the serfs and the noble. In this regard, the increased knowledge during the Middle Ages facilitated the growth of agriculture from the ancient period which would later become a backbone of the economy during the medieval period in Europe.
Development of agriculture during the medieval period since the early first millennium to the renaissance period up to 1650 can be noted to be a major economic activity that the population depended on regarding other major developments that took place in those centuries. In some typical systems, the land was divided regarding the use of traditional categories like the pulses, grains, as well as meadows that would be used for grazing sheep, cattle, and pigs and forests for timber. There was also a major development regarding the annexation of the manors as well as the tenant houses that were kitchen gardens that would produce herbs, vegetables, and fruits. Increased technological advancements informed better farming methods although the use of crop rotation was still a major approach used due to the benefits it posed regarding the increase in production. Due to better produce and hence a healthy society, there was an increase in knowledge especially the development of priesthood. Other activities including the emergence of landlords was a common development during this period due to community stability and hence an organized form of governance from what was being practiced during the ancient times to the Middle Ages. However, considering the increased value of land, there were increased conflicts regarding possession as land would not only be used for agriculture and settlement during this period, but also as a measure of health.
As a major economic activity, agriculture led to the development of major towns present to data, increased money in the economy which replaced the traditional barter forms of trade that were inherent from the ancient times. During this period, there was a rise in manufacturing that replaced the feudal system that was based on land ownership. There were an increase and development of capitalism that increased the importance of the manufacturing sector that was characterized by the increase in the nobility and churches. The long history regarding the agricultural practices and development during the medieval period led to the categorization of agriculture into agronomy, forestry, and horticulture. It can be established that the development of horticultural technology was evident regarding artworks such as ornaments, religious paintings, and portraits. There was a demand for agricultural works that included farm management and hence the traditional vine culture. Besides, the period demonstrates rapid development and advancement in agricultural technology as evidenced by the printed records. During the period, the uses of plowing with oxen were developed. However, around 1100, horses would replace oxen due to their higher strength. This coupled with the wind and water mills developed farming which improved the farm produce across Europe hence impacting in the social and economic activities in the place. Many farmers were able to utilize the windmills and the technologies were a major rejuvenation to agricultural practices that are practiced to date.
In conclusion, the development of early agriculture can be traced way from ancient times that was defined as the Neolithic period. The early developments took place from about 10,000 to about 15,000 years ago. This development was triggered by various factors including climatic changes especially the end of the ice period, the need for more food to feed an increasing population, and the need for a settled life led triggered a change in the social life. The traditional hunting and gathering were replaced with farming that led to settled farming and hence a reliable supply of food. Through this, early civilization began which also led to the growth of early cities. Besides, since there was enough food which facilitated better diets and nutrition, the population skyrocketed. Such changes improved during the Middle Ages and throughout the medieval period to the 1650 renaissance period. From the analysis, it can be established that technological developments led to increased agricultural activities and hence production. This facilitated better societies, new forms of governance, and various changes in the economy present to date.
Adas, Michael. Agricultural and pastoral societies in ancient and classical history. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2001.
Astill, Grenville, and John Langdon. Medieval farming and technology: the impact of agricultural change in Northwest Europe. Leiden: Brill, 1997.
Barigozzi, C. The Origin and Domestication of Cultivated Plants: Proceedings of the Symposium, Rome, Italy, November 25-27, 1985. Saint Louis: Elsevier Science, 2014.
Lata, Suman. Irrigation water management for agricultural development in Uttar Pradesh, India. Cham, Switzerland: Springer, 2019.
Tusser, Thomas. Five hundred points of good husbandry: as well for the champion or open country, as for the woodland or several; together with A book of huswifery. Being a calendar of rural and domestic economy, for every month in the year; and exhibiting a picture of the agriculture, customs, and manners of England, in the sixteenth century. 36, xl, 338 p.22 cm (8vo). London: Allen, 1812.
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