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Creating Abundance: Biological Innovation and American Agricultural Development

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This book demonstrates that American agricultural development was far more dynamic than generally portrayed. In the two centuries before World War II, a stream of biological innovations revolutionized the crop and livestock sectors, increasing both land and labor productivity. Biological innovations were essential for the movement of agriculture onto new lands with more extreme climates, for maintaining production in the face of evolving threats from pests, and for the creation of the modern livestock sector. These innovations established the foundation for the subsequent Green and Genetic Revolutions. The book challenges the misconceptions that, before the advent of hybrid corn, American farmers single-mindedly invested in laborsaving mechanical technologies and that biological technologies were static.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"[Creating Abundance will] become a touchstone of agricultural information that historians will use for years."
Western Historical Quarterly, Andrew P. Duffin, Green Mountain College

"Creating Abundance is an enjoyable and informative read for those interested in the development of US agriculture from colonial times to 1940."
Agricultural History, Paul D. Mitchell, University of Wisconsin- Madison

"This book is essential for scholars of this period and beneficial to all who are interested in U.S. history and the state of affairs today."
American Historical Review, Orville Vernon Burton, Coastal Carolina University

"This is a timely and impressive book, offering a radically new perspective on American agricultural history. It should engage both scholars and students for many years to come."
Journal of Southern History, Laura B. Sayre, Yale University

"This collection of provocative essays will doubtless stimulate more debate about how scholars lessons from the past in order to address contemporary problems." -Patrick V. Kirch, Journal of Anthropological Research

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780521673877
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Publication date: 9/8/2008
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 480
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Alan L. Olmstead is Director of the Institute of Governmental Affairs, Professor of Economics, and member of the Giannini Foundation of Agricultural Economics at the University of California, Davis. He is one of the six editors-in-chief of Historical Statistics of the United States: Millennial Edition (2006), and his writings appear regularly in the leading economics and history journals.

Paul W. Rhode is McClelland Professor of Economics at the University of Arizona and Research Associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research. He is co-editor (with Gianni Toniolo) of The Global Economy in the 1990s: A Long-Run Perspective (2006). He is a frequent contributor to prominent economics and history journals.

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Table of Contents

1. Introduction; 2. The red queen and the hard reds: productivity growth in American wheat, 1800-1940; 3. Corn: America's crop; 4. Cotton: variety innovation and the making of king cotton; 5. Weevils, worms, and wilts: the red queen's cotton playground; 6. The other revolution in the cotton economy: cotton's revival in the twentieth century; 7. That 'stinking weed of America': the evolution of tobacco production; 8. California: creating a cornucopia; 9. Livestock in the farm economy; 10. Defining and redesigning America's livestock; 11. Nature's perfect food: inventing the modern dairy industry; 12. Draft power; 13. Conclusion: tying it together.

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