Petr Alekseevich Kropotkin.

Fields, factories, and workshops; or, Industry combined with agriculture and brain work with manual work online

. (page 5 of 22)
Online LibraryPetr Alekseevich KropotkinFields, factories, and workshops; or, Industry combined with agriculture and brain work with manual work → online text (page 5 of 22)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

Professor W. Fream's Rothatnstead Experiments (London, 1888), page
83. I take in the above Sir John Lawes' figure of 5-65 bushels per head
of population every year. It is very close to the yearly allowance oi
5-67 bushels of the French statisticians. The Russian statisticians
reckon 5-67 bushels of winter crops (chiefly rye) and 2'5 bushels of spring
crops (sarrazin, barley, etc.).


increase under the heads of mangold, carrots, etc., still
the aggregate area under all these crops was reduced by
a further 330,000 acres. An increase of area was found
only for permanent pasture (2,800,000 acres) and grass
under rotation (1,600,000 acres); but we should look
in vain for a corresponding increase of live stock. The
increase of live stock which took place during those
twenty-seven years was not sufficient to cover even the
area reclaimed from waste land*

Since the year 1887 affairs went, however, from
worse to worse. If we take Great Britain alone, we
see that in 1885 the area under all corn crops was
8,392,006 acres; that is very small, indeed, in com-
parison to the area which could have been cultivated ;
but even that little was further reduced to 7,400,227
acres in 1895. The area under wheat was 2,478,318
acres in 1885 (as against 3,630,300 in 1874); but it
dwindled away to 1,417,641 acres in 1895, while the
area under the other cereals increased by a trifle only
from 5,198,026 acres to 5,462,184 the total loss
on all cereals being nearly 1,000,000 acres in ten years!
Another 5,000,000 people were thus compelled to get
their food from abroad

Did the area under green crops increase during
that decade? Not in the least! It was further
reduced by nearly 300,000 acres (3,521,602 in 1885,
and 3,225,762 in 1895). Or, was the area under clover
and grasses in rotation increased in proportion to all
these reductions ? Alas, no ! It remained almost
stationary (4,654,173 acres in 1885, and 4,729,801 in
1895). In short, taking all the land that is under crops

* There was an increase of 1,800,000 head of horned cattle, and
a decrease of 4^ million sheep (6 millions, if we compare the year 1886
with 1868), which would correspond to an increase of ij million of
units of cattle, because eight sheep are reckoned as equivalent to one
head of horned cattle. But five million acres having been reclaimed
upon waste land since 1860; the above increase should hardly do for
covering that area, so that the a million acres which were cultivated no
longer remained fully uncovered. They were a pure loss to the nation.


in rotation (17,201,490 acres in 1885 and 16,166,950
acres in 1895), we see that within the last ten years an-
other 1,000,000 acres went out of cultivation, without
any compensation whatever. It went to increase that
already enormous area of more than 16,000,000 acres
one-half of the cultivable area which goes under the
head of " permanent pasture," that is, hardly suffices to
feed one cow on each three acres !

Need I say, after that, that quite to the contrary
of what we are told about the British agriculturists
becoming " meat-makers " instead of " wheat-growers "
no increase of live stock took place during the last
ten years. Where, indeed, could they find their
food? Far from devoting the land freed from cereals
to " meat-making/' the country further reduced its
live stock. It had 6,597,964 head of horned cattle
in 1885, and 6,354,336 only in 1895; 26,534,600 sheep
in 1885 and 25,792,200 sheep in 1895. True, the
number of horses was increased ; every butcher and
greengrocer runs now a horse " to take orders at the
gents' doors" (in Sweden and Switzerland, by the way,
they do it by telephone); and consequently Great
Britain has 1,545,228 horses instead of the 1,408,788
she had in 1885. But the horses are imported, as also
the oats and a considerable amount of the hay that is
required for feeding them. And if the consumption of
meat has really increased in this country, it is due to
cheap imported meat, not to the meat that would be pro-
duced in these islands.* In short, agriculture has not
changed its direction, as we are often told ; it simply
went down in all directions. Land is going out of cul-
ture at a perilous rate, while the latest improvements in
market-gardening, fruit-growing and poultry-keeping
are but a mere trifle if we compare them with what has

* No less than 5,877,000 cwts. of beef and mutton, 1,065,470 sheep and
lambs, and 415,565 pieces of cattle were imported in 1895.


been done in the same direction in France, Belgium
and America,

The cause of this general downward movement is
self-evident. It is the desertion, the abandonment of
the land. Each crop requiring human labour has had its
area reduced ; and one-third of the agricultural labourers
have been sent away since 1861 to reinforce the ranks
of the unemployed in the cities,* so that far from being
over-populated, the fields of Britain are starved of
human labour as James Caird used to say. The British
nation does not work on her soil ; she is prevented from
doing so ; and the would-be economists complain that
the soil will not nourish its inhabitants!

I once took a knapsack and went on foot out of
London, through Sussex. I had read Leonce de La-
vergne's work and expected to find a soil busily culti-
vated ; but neither round London nor still less farther
south did I see men in the fields. In the Weald I could
walk for twenty miles without crossing anything but
heath or woodlands, rented as pheasant-shooting grounds
to " London gentlemen," as the labourers said. " Un-
grateful soil " was my first thought ; but then I would
occasionally come to a farm at the crossing of two roads
and see the same soil bearing a rich crop ; and my next
thought was tel seigneur, telle terre, as the French
peasants say. Later on I saw the rich fields of the
midland counties ; but even there I was struck by not
perceiving the same busy human labour which I was
accustomed to admire on the Belgian and French fields.
But I ceased to wonder when I learnt that only
1,383,000 men and women in England and Wales work
in the fields, while more than 16,000,000 belong to the
" professional, domestic, indefinite, and unproductive
class/' as these pitiless statisticians say. One million

* Agricultural labourers in England and Wales : 2,100,000 in 1861
1,383,000 in 1884; 1,311,720 in 1891.


and three hundred thousand human beings cannot pro-
ductively cultivate an area of 33,000,000 acres unless
they can resort to the Bonanza farm's methods of cul-

Again, taking Harrow as the centre of my excursions,
I could walk five miles towards London, or turning my
back upon it, and I could see nothing east or west but
meadow land on which they hardly cropped two tons
of hay per acre scarcely enough to keep alive one
milch cow on each two acres. Man is conspicuous by
his absence from those meadows ; he rolls them with
a heavy roller in the spring ; he spreads some manure
every two or three years; then he disappears until the
time has come to make hay. And that within ten
miles from Charing Cross, close to a city with 5,000,000
inhabitants, supplied with Flemish and Jersey potatoes,
French salads and Canadian apples. In the hands of
the Paris gardeners, each thousand acres situated within
the same distance from the city would be cultivated by
at least 2000 human beings, who would get vegetables
to the value of from 50 to 300 per acre. But here
the acres which only need human hands to become
an inexhaustible source of golden crops lie idle, and
they say to us, " Heavy clay ! " without even knowing
that in the hands of man there are no unfertile soils ;
that the most fertile soils are not in the prairies of
America, nor in the Russian steppes ; that they are in
the peat-bogs of Ireland, on the sand downs of the
northern sea-coast of France, on the craggy mountains
of the Rhine, where they have been made by man's

The most striking fact is, however, that in some
undoubtedly fertile parts of the country things are even
in a worse condition. My heart simply ached when I
saw the state in which land is kept in South Devon,
and when I learned to know what " permanent pasture "
means. Field after field is covered with nothing but


grass, three inches high, and thistles in profusion.
Twenty, thirty such fields can be seen at one glance
from the top of every hill ; and thousands -of acres are
in that state, notwithstanding that the grandfathers of
the present generation have devoted a formidable
amount of labour to the clearing of that land from the
stones, to fencing it, roughly draining it and the like.
In every direction I could see abandoned cottages and
orchards going to ruin. A whole population has dis-
appeared, and even its last vestiges must disappear if
things continue to go on as they have gone. And this
takes place in a part of the country endowed
with a most fertile soil and possessed of a climate
which is certainly more congenial than the cli-
mate of Jersey in spring and early summer a land
upon which even the poorest cottagers occasionally raise
potatoes as early as the first half of May. But how can
that land be cultivated when there is nobody to cultivate
it ? " We have fields ; men go by, but never go in," an
old labourer said to me ; and so it is in reality.*

It will be said, of course, that the above opinion
strangely contrasts with the well-known superiority of
British agriculture. Do we not know, indeed, that
British crops average twenty-eight bushels of wheat per
acre, while in France they reach only seventeen bushels ?
Does it not stand in all almanacs that Britain gets every
year 180,000,000 sterling worth of animal produce-
milk, cheese, meat and wool from her fields ? All that
is true, and there is no doubt that in many respects
British agriculture is superior to that of many other na-
tions. As regards obtaining the greatest amount of pro-

* Round the small hamlet where I stayed for two summers, there were :
one farm, 370 acres, four labourers and two boys; another, about 300
acres, two men and two boys; a third, 800 acres, five men only md
probably as many boys. In truth, the problem of cultivating the lain/
with the least number of men has been solved in this spot by not culti
vating at all as much as two-thirds of it.



duce with the least amount of labour, Britain undoubtedly
took the lead until she was superseded by America.
Again, as regards the fine breeds of cattle, the splendid
state of the meadows and the results obtained in separate
farms, there is much to be learned from Britain. But
a closer acquaintance with British agriculture as a whole
discloses many features of inferiority. However splen-
did, a meadow remains a meadow, much inferior in
productivity to a cornfield ; and the fine breeds of cattle
appear to be poor creatures as long as each ox requires
three acres of land to be fed upon. Certainly one may
indulge in some admiration at the average twenty-eight
bushels grown in this country ; but when we learn that
only 1,417,000 acres, out of the cultivable 33,000,000,
bear such crops, we are quite disappointed. Any one
could obtain like results if he were to put all his manure
into one-twentieth part of the area which he possesses.
Again, the twenty-eight bushels no longer appear to
us so satisfactory when we learn that without any man-
uring, merely by means of a good culture, they have
obtained at Rothamstead an average of fourteen bushels
per acre from the same plot of land for forty consecutive
years ; * while with manuring they obtain thirty-eight
bushels instead of twenty-eight, and under the allotment
system the crops reach forty bushels. In some farms
they occasionally attain even fifty and fifty-seven
bushels per acre.

If we intend to have a correct appreciation of British
agriculture, we must not base it upon what is obtained
on a few selected and well-manured plots ; we must
inquire what is done with the territory, taken as a
whole. t Now, out of each 1000 acres of the aggregate

* The Rothamstead Experiments, 1888, by Professor W. Fream, p 35 seq,
f The figures which I take for these calculations are given in the
Statesman's Year-book, 1896, and the Agricultural Returns of the Board
of Agriculture for 1895.
They are as follows:

Total area (Great Britain) 56,457,500


Fio. i. Proportion of the cultivated area which is given to cereals
altogether, and to wheat, in Great Britain and Ireland.


territory of England, Wales and Scotland, 418 acres are
left under wood, coppice, heath, buildings and so on.
We need not find fault with that division, because it
depends very much upon natural causes. In France
and Belgium one-third of the territory is in like manner
also treated as uncultivable, although portions of it are
continually reclaimed and brought under culture. But,
leaving aside the " uncultivable " portion, let us see what
is done with the 582 acres out of 1000 of the "cultiv-
able" part (32,777,000 acres in Great Britain). First
of all, it is divided into two almost equal parts, and one
of them 295 acres out of 1000 is left under " perma-
nent pasture," that is, in most cases it is entirely un-
cultivated. Very little hay is obtained from it,* and
some cattle are grazed upon it. More than one-half of
the cultivable area is thus left without cultivation, and
the remainder, i.e., 287 acres only out of each 1000
acres, is under culture. Out of these last, no acres are
under corn crops, twenty-one acres under potatoes, fifty-

Uncultivable area : Acres.

England 7,481,000

Wales 1,885,000

Scotland ....... 14,314,000

Great Britain 23,680,000

Cultivable area :

Great Britain ......... 32,777,500

Out of it, under :

Permanent pasture 16,610,563

Clover and mature grasses 4,729,801

Corn crops and potatoes (541,217 acres) .... 7,400,227

Green crops 3,225,762

Bare fallow, etc 475,650

Hops 5 8 i94

Small fruit 74.547

Flax 2,023

Under culture (including permanent pasture giving hay) . 16,166,950

Out of the 6,879,825 acres given to corn crops, 1,417,641 acres were
under wheat; 2,166,279 under barley, and 3,225,905 under oats.

* Only from each eighty-five acres, out of these 295, hay is obtained,
The remainder are grazing grounds.


seven acres under green crops and eighty-four acres
under clover fields and grasses under rotation. And
finally, out of the 110 acres given to corn crops, the
best twenty-five acres (one-fortieth part of the territory,
one-twenty-third of the cultivable area) are picked out
and sown with wheat They are well cultivated, well
manured, and upon them an average of twenty-eight
bushels to the acre is obtained ; and upon these twenty-
five acres out of 1000 the world superiority of British
agriculture is based.

The net result of all that is, that on nearly 33,000,000
acres of cultivable land the food is grown for one-third
part only of the population (two-thirds of the food it con-
sumes is imported), and we may say accordingly that,
although nearly two-thirds of the territory is cultivable,
British agriculture provides home-grown food for each
125 or 130 inhabitants only per square mile (out of
378). In other words, nearly three acres of the cul-
tivable area are required to grow the food for each
person. Let us then see what is done with the land in
France and Belgium.

Now, if we simply compare the average twenty-eight
bushels per acre of wheat in Great Britain with the
average seventeen bushels in France, the comparison
is all in favour of these islands ; but such averages are
of little value because the two systems of agriculture
are totally different in the two countries. The French-
man also has his picked and heavily manured " twenty-
five acres " in the north of France and in Ile-de-France,
and from these picked acres he obtains average crops
ranging from thirty-one to thirty-three bushels.* How-

* That is, thirty-one to thirty-three bushels on the average ; forty
bushels in good farms, and fifty in the best. The area under wheat is
17,500,000 acres : the cultivated area, 95,000,000 acres ; and the aggregate
superficies of France, 132,000,000 acres. Compare Lecouteux, Le ble, sa
culture extensive et intensive, 1883 ; Risler, Physiologic et culture du bit,
1886; Boitet, Herbages et prairies naturelles, 1885; Baudrillart, Les
populations agricoles de la Normandie, 1880; Grandeau, La production
agricole en France ; L^once de Lavergne's last edition ; and so on.


ever, he sows with wheat, not only the best picked out
acres, but also such fields on the Central Plateau and
in Southern France as hardly yield ten, eight and even
six bushels to the acre, without irrigation ; and these
low crops reduce the average for the whole country.
The Frenchman cultivates much that is left here under
permanent pasture and this is what is described as
his "inferiority" in agriculture. In fact, although the
proportion between what we have named the "cultiv-
able area " and the total territory is very much the same
in France as it is in Great Britain (624 acres out of each
1000 acres of the territory), the area under wheat crops
is nearly six times as great, in proportion, as what it
is in Great Britain (146 acres instead of twenty-five,
out of each 1000 acres) ; the corn crops altogether
cover more than two-fifths of the cultivable area, and
large areas are given besides to green crops, industrial
crops, vine, fruit and vegetables.

Taking everything into consideration, although the
Frenchman keeps less cattle, and especially grazes less
sheep than the Briton, he nevertheless obtains from
his soil nearly all the food that he and his cattle con-
sume. He imports, in an average year, but one-tenth
only of what the nation consumes, and he exports to
this country considerable quantities of food produce
(10,000,000 worth), not only from the south, but also,
and especially, from the shores of the Channel (Brit-
tany butter and vegetables ; fruit and vegetables from
the suburbs of Paris, and so on).*

The net result is that, although one-third part of the
territory is also treated as " uncultivable/' the soil of

*The exports from France In 1894 (average year) attained: wine
233,000,000 fr., spirits 54,000,000 fr., cheese, butter and sugar 114,000,000
fr. To this country France sent, same year, 2,744,870 worth of wine,
2,227,360 worth of refined sugar, 2,351,870 worth of butter, 982,800
worth of eggs (1,611,500 in 1893), and 1,402,300 worth of brandy, all
of French origin only, in addition to 14,403,040 worth of manufactured
silks and woollens. The exports from Algeria are not taken in the above


France yields the food for 170 inhabitants per square
mile (out of 188), that is, for forty persons more, per
square mile, than this country.*

It is thus apparent that the comparison with France
is not so much in favour of this country as it is said
to be ; and it will be still less favourable when we come,
in our next chapter, to horticulture. As to the com-
parison with Belgium, it is even more striking the
more so as the two systems of culture are similar in
both countries. To begin with, in Belgium we also find
an average crop of twenty-seven and eight-tenths
bushels of wheat to the acre ; but the area given to wheat
is five times as big as Great Britain, in comparison
to the cultivable area, and the cereals cover almost one
half of the land available for culture, t The land is so
well cultivated that the average crops for the years 1889-

* Each 1000 acres of French territory are disposed of as follows : 376
acres are left under wood, coppice, communal grazing grounds, etc., and
624 acres are treated as " cultivable ". Out of each " cultivable " 624
acres, 128 are under meadows (now irrigated to a great extent), ninety-
two under bare fallow and various cultures, 272 under cereals, eighty-
three under green and industrial crops, forty-seven under vineyards. No
less than 146 acres are under wheat, which yields twenty-eight to thirty
bushels in two departments, twenty-six bushels in twelve departments.

On the whole, more than seventeen bushels per acre is the average in
one half of the country, and less than seventeen bushels in the other half.

As to cattle, we find in Great Britain 6,353,336 cattle (i.e., nineteen
head per each 100 acres of the cultivable area), including in that
number over 1,250,000 calves under one year, and 25,792,195 sheep (i.e.,
seventy-nine sheep per 100 acres of the same). In France we find
12,879,240 cattle (sixteen head per each 100 acres of cultivable area) and
only 20,721,850 sheep (twenty-five sheep per 100 acres of the same). In
other words, the proportion of horned cattle is nearly the same in both
countries (nineteen head and sixteen head per 100 acres), a considerable
difference appearing in favour of this country only as to the number of
sheep (seventy-nine as against twenty-five). The heavy imports of hay,
oil-cake, oats, etc., into this country must, however, not be forgotten,
because, for each head of cattle which lives on imported food, eight sheep
can be grazed, or be fed with home-grown fodder. As to horses, both
countries stand on nearly the same footing.

f Out of each 1000 acres of the territory, 673 are cultivable, and 327 are
left as uncultivable. Of the former, 317 acres are given to cereals, 182 to
green crops and grasses under rotation ; 121 acres are given to wheat and
wheat mixed with rye (ninety-four to pure wheat). Moreover, upon eacli
sixty-three acres, out ot 1000, catch crops of carrots, mangold and swedes
are obtained.


92 (the very bad year of 1891 being left out of account)
were twenty-eight and six-tenths bushels per acre for
winter wheat ; nearly forty-seven bushels for oats
(thirty-five to forty-one and a half in Great Britain),
and forty bushels for winter barley (twenty-nine to
thirty-five in Great Britain) ; while on no less than
459,800 acres catch crops of swedes (2,226,250 tons)
and carrots (155,000 tons) were obtained. All taken,
they grow in Belgium more than 76,000,000 bushels of
cereals, i.e., fifteen and seven-tenths bushels per acre of
the cultivable area, while the corresponding figure for
Great Britain is only eight and a half bushels ; and they
keep almost twice as much cattle upon each cultivable
acre as is kept in Great Britain.* Large portions of the
land are given besides to the culture of industrial plants,
potatoes for spirit, beet for sugar, and so on.

However, it must not be believed that the soil of
Belgium is more fertile than the soil of this country.
On the contrary, to use the words of Laveleye, " only
one half, or less, of the territory .offers natural condi-
tions which are favourable for agriculture " ; the other
half consists of a gravelly soil, or sands, " the natural
sterility of which could be overpowered only by heavy
manuring ". Man, not nature, has given to the Belgian
soil its present productivity. With this soil and labour,
Belgium succeeds in supplying nearly all the food of a
population which is denser than that of England and
Wales, and numbers 544 inhabitants to the square mile.
If the exports and imports of agricultural produce from
and into Belgium be taken into account, we can say that

* Taking all horses, cattle and sheep in both countries, and reckoning
eight sheep as equivalent to one head of horned cattle, we find that
Belgium has twenty-three cattle units and horses upon each 100 acres of
territory, as against twenty same units and horses in Great Britain. If
we take cattle alone, the disproportion is much greater, as we find thirty-
six cattle units on each 100 acres of cultivable area, as against nineteen
in Great Britain. The annual value of animal produce in Belgium is
estimated by the Annuaire Statistique de la Belgique (1893, p. 263) at
,58,039,050, including poultry (; 1,534,000).



Laveleye's conclusions are still good, and that only
one inhabitant out of each ten to twenty requires im-

Fio. 2. Proportion ot the cultivated area which is given to cereals
altogether, and to wheat, in Belgium. The square which encloses
the wheat square represents the area given to both wheat and a

1 2 3 5 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22

Online LibraryPetr Alekseevich KropotkinFields, factories, and workshops; or, Industry combined with agriculture and brain work with manual work → online text (page 5 of 22)