Agrarian change in lowland scotland in the Seventeenth Century
Whyte, Ian D.
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This study considers the changes which occurred in the agrarian economy of Lowland Scotland during the seventeenth century. It tests the two hypotheses which have formed the basis of all previous work on Scottish agriculture. The first of these, which has been generally accepted until recently, was that prior to the Agricultural Revolution in the eighteenth century, Scottish agriculture was in a backward state. Farming was considered to have'been at a subsistence level and to have been stagnant, if not actually in decline, during the seventeenth century. The second hypothesis, which has only been formulated in recent years and which was not backed by a large body of evidence, stated, that there had been a significant degree of development in Scottish agriculture during this period. The limitations of previous work are first examined and the most likely source material for a study of seventeenth century agriculture in Scotland is identified. The delimitation of the study area and the time period are then discussed. Using the sources which have proved to be most informative, a series of themes is then developed. Each chapter considers a different aspect of the agrarian economy in which development can be demonstrated. In each chapter, the significance of the theme is discussed and previous ideas considered. Changes through time are then studied and, as far as possible, regional differences are brought out and explained. The themes are closely interrelated and, when taken together, build up a picture of dynamic change in the rural economy of Lowland Scotland during this period. The second hypothesis is thus confirmed and the first one refuted. The principal contribution of this study is towards the further understanding of the seventeenth century as a major formative period in the economic development of Scotland and secondly, to the study of the processes involved in the change from subsistence to commercial agriculture.