Magill’s Choice: Agriculture in History

“…The three volumes contain 1,296 pages. The book arrangement is in chronological order and covers the time frame of 900 B.C.E. to 2002. Individual essays tend to cover all areas of human civilizations, food and fiber crops, and raising of poultry and livestock to benefit humans. Topics include building of dams; canals for irrigation; development of chemical pesticides; horticulture research; invention of tools for planting, harvesting, and processing; the evolution of the farm labor system; government efforts to foster agricultural production; management and land use; marketing; and devastating natural disasters. The essays are arranged chronologically with the precise date, name of event, summary paragraph, and the significance, location, category, and list of key figures. The essay discusses the event in greater detail and notes the impact on history. This is followed by a list of sources for further study that provides cross-references with other essays within the set…Pictures throughout the essays help in understand the subject matter. This three-volume set should be in all libraries related to history and particularly those that specialize in agricultural history.”
-ARBA
“…This title covers a wide range of events and developments as they relate to agriculture—from the origins of plant cultivation and animal husbandry in different parts of the world to innovations in techniques, the development of modern farming equipment, the introduction of chemical fertilizers, and experiments in the genetic engineering of food plants and animals. Farm labor, land management, climatic challenges, famines, agrarian reform, and government farm subsidies are among the subjects included. The three-volume set is both geographically and chronologically immense, taking a broad view of agriculture to encompass forms of food production and aspects of the human consumption of agricultural products. A particular strength is its emphasis on the origins of plant cultivation and livestock breeding. The subject matter expands to encompass discussions of land and labor policies, scientific research, dietary issues, and environmental issues. More than a third concern agriculture in North America, while the rest provide generous attention to other regions in the world. Coverage goes back as far as the rise of agriculture in northern Africa and Asia in 900 B.C.E. through the modern technological advances of today. The articles are arranged in chronological order based on the dates assigned to their events, and each runs about 2000 words in length. BOTTOM LINE Although not a comprehensive history of world agriculture, this resource touches on a remarkably large proportion of important world developments in food production. Recommended for academics and general readers interested in agriculture and its effect of world history and civilization.”
-Library Journal
“Before any library that isn’t located in a farm area skips over this work, be aware that agriculture has influenced civilizations worldwide. This set includes chronologically arranged essays on events tracing the development of agriculture throughout the world from prehistory to the present day. Included are articles on plant cultivation, the raising of livestock, diet and nutrition, natural disasters, developments in food production, and historical and political decisions that affected agriculture, such as building dams or setting price supports. Most of the 171 entries are taken directly from Salem’s Great Events from History series and run about five pages. Entries generally include a date or range of years, locale, subject headings, and key figures as well as an essay that contains a summary of the event’s historical significance, a list of further reading, and cross-references to other entries in the set. Topics range from the very specific (Brown Orders Medfly Spraying in California) to events that are major and well known (Potato Crop Failures Cause Great Irish Famine). About half of the articles focus on the U.S. and Canada. A “Geographical List of Entries” and indexes for people; foods, plants, and animals; and subjects are found in volume 3. A complete table of contents is at the beginning of each volume. Indexing is one of the few weak points of the set. For example, the entry for the Chinese famine of 1959–1961 isn’t indexed under Great Chinese Famine or Three Years of Natural Disasters, even though those names are given as “also known as” in the entry…Unfamiliar vocabulary is not defined within the text or in a glossary. Otherwise, a solid, readable set great for high-school and public libraries and essential where there are Future Farmers of America chapters.”
-Booklist