1. People (Individuals who live on the farm, grow crops, raise livestock,
sell the goods, eat the goods, etc.)
2. Economics (The consideration of profit/ loss of money in farming)
3. Environment (The land planted, harvested or grazed upon
-farming-, and the lands and people effected by those practices)
4. Policy (Laws, legislation, and regulations focused on protecting
and/or restricting agriculture)
5. Technology (Inventions, farming methods and practices, equipment,
businesses, and mechanization used in agricultural production)
Immediate/Personal (How did your family arrive in your hometown?)
Cultural (Why does government work the way it does?)
Factual (What did farmers grow?)
Change (society, people, or place) = History
Time (past to present)
Change in agriculture = Agricultural History
Time (past to present)
To begin, we need to understand what history is. History is the study of
everything in the past. Historians study the past in order to understand it.
They also study how events affected societies and people. Despite the
common sentiment, history does change. As historians examine, investigate,
and explore past events they revise earlier explanations of the past, add new
information, and revise existing answers to historical questions. In essence,
historians study the change of events throughout the past. In mathematical
Why study History?
The more we know about the past, the better we can understand how
societies evolved, why specific problems arise, and how others have addressed
In order to understand past events, historians are generally concerned with
three main questions.
Historians formulate the answers to those questions based on interpretation of
information passed down generation to generation.
Fields of History
Historians group themselves into fields based on the kinds of questions they
ask, the types of information they work with, and the approaches they utilize.
Some of the primary historical fields include:
Many individuals have defined agriculture differently to fit their needs.
However, agriculture includes a few main components. Those components
include land, plants, animals, and the manipulation of those components by
humans with the goal of creating resources, food, fiber, and/or a profit. While
the definition adequately defines agriculture, it does not indicate the
complexity of what agriculture is. Broadly, agriculture includes:
Agricultural history is the study of agriculture (economics, environment,
people, policy, and technology) over a certain span of time.
How do agricultural historians research?
Methods of researching
Agricultural historians rely upon numerous methods and sources found in many
locations to write history. Materials used by historians are found in numerous
places such as libraries, archives, private collections, government buildings,
churches, and even the internet (although individuals need to be careful to
ensure the authenticity and accuracy of content from the internet!).
Historians refer to these pieces of information as sources.
Some of the most commonly used agricultural history sources include the
agricultural census, population census, court records, land records, journals,
diaries, church records, ledgers and account books, government records,
advertising, newspapers, artifacts, narratives/ memoirs, and oral histories.
Sources used by historians fall into two categories:
A primary source is a document created at the time of the event or subject
you have chosen to study. It may also be a document by people who were
observers of or participants in that event or topic. The primary source can be
anything, including written texts, objects, buildings, films, photographs,
paintings, cartoons, etc. The key to remembering what makes the source a
primary source is when it was made. For example, a farmer's diary written in
the year 1856 would be a primary source document because the farmer
discussing his life, at the time it was occurring, wrote it.
A secondary source is a book or article written by a historian or other scholar.
Secondary sources are twice removed from the actual event or process the
author is examining. So, while an historian's introduction to Rebecca Burlend's
A True Picture of Emigration (1848) is a secondary source, the book written by
Mrs. Burlend is a primary source. Another example of a secondary source is the
history textbook that you use in school. Many authors contributed to writing
the book about events that happened to other people in the past.
Putting it to Use
Now that you understand what Agricultural History is, explore the website for
essays written by agricultural historians. Begin by picking one of the major
categories (Economics, Environment, People, Policy, and Technology) and
Rick L. Woten
Carr, Edward. What is History? London: Macmillan Publishing, 1961.
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Dickerson, Mary Jane and Henry J. Steffens. Writer's Guide: History.
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Kennedy, Mary Lynch, William J. Kennedy, Hadley M. Smith. Writing in the
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