Part 73: Q&A - January 1
Empire Total War: The Second 80 Years War quick online Q&A
Q: What sort of agriculture was there in the 1700s? Was starvation a common issue?
A: The methods of agriculture varied from nation to nation and even to some extent, farm to farm. Some of the industrial farming techniques of the European nations could not be applied to crops such as rice paddies for example, as they did not benefit at all from four field crop rotation.
Work was still back breaking, but yields were higher due to improved soil quality, and fewer crops were wasted sitting waiting for old ox driven mills or to arrive in a city through a dirt road path. This all meant that while farm work was not necessarily yielding more plants per hectare, fields were not failing as often, and fewer crops were lost to wastage. Faster ships that could cross oceans meant that preserved or non-perishable foods could be transported relatively quickly from province to province or nation to nation through various trade ports. This food trade was particularly useful by the 1700s, as regions such as the Netherlands which produced more food than was consumed could ship food to regions which could not produce enough, such as France. Because of this, wealthy nations rarely if ever faced starvation, especially if their empire spanned several geographic zones that could compliment the agriculture of other regions in the Empire. Nations with poor finances, trade or limited agricultural variety could face starvation. Sweden as a net importer of food, and a nation with scarce agriculture suffered mass starvation in the 1720s when their trade routes were disrupted by the British. The Maratha, having lost many of their farms to the Dutch, and tens of thousands of farmers was also struggling with agriculture.
A very small number of inventions of the 1700s did directly reduce the labour cost of producing crops. The seed drill was faster and required less wasted wheat and man power than sowing seeds over plowed fields, and the increased automation of food refinement increased the yields produced per farmer.
There was also an increase in fisheries across much of the world. The Dutch had produced dozens of major fishing ports, many in Spain and many more in the Americas. Deep sea cod fisheries, whaling and tuna fishing yielded tons of high protein foods in dozens of nations to be shared across their Empire. Smoked, salted, oil packed or even lye preserved fish were shipped across the Empire, feeding millions, even where the cows, pigs, sheep and chickens had been lost to raids, predators, disease or failed crops for feed.