Scottish Agricultural Revolution

Scottish Agricultural Revolution

The Agricultural Revolution in Scotland began in the mid-eighteenth century with the improvements of Scottish Lowlands 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 British Agricultural Revolution led directly to what is increasingly becoming known as the Lowland Clearances, when hundreds of thousands of cottars and tenant farmers from central and southern Scotland were, in many cases, forcibly moved from the farms and small holdings they had occupied for hundreds of years.

Many small settlements were dismantled, 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 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.

Many of the recently displaced Scots found a new home in Nova Scotia (latin for New Scotland) and would remain there for generations. Even today, the majority of Nova Scotians have ancestors that originated in Scotland.

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

ee also

*British Agricultural Revolution

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