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Tracking the British agricultural revolution through the isotopic analysis of dated parchment.

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Doherty, Sean P 
Alexander, Michelle M 
Henderson, Stuart 
Newton, Jason 
Finch, Jonathan 


Between the sixteenth and nineteenth century, British agriculture underwent a 'revolutionary' transformation. Yet despite over a century of research and the recognised centrality of agricultural developments to industrialisation and population growth, the character or chronology of any 'revolution' during this period remains contentious. Enquiry has been hampered by the fragmented and locally specific nature of historic accounts and the broad dating of early-modern zooarchaeological assemblages. To address this, we conducted stable isotope analysis on 658 legal documents written on sheepskin parchment; a unique biological resource that records the day, month and year of use (AD 1499 to 1969). We find these provide a high temporal resolution analysis of changing agricultural practices and episodes of disease. Most significantly, they suggest that if an 'Agricultural Revolution' occurred in livestock management, it did so from the mid-nineteenth century, in the aftermath of the Napoleonic Wars.



Animals, Agriculture, Livestock, Population Growth

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Springer Science and Business Media LLC
European Research Council (787282)