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Call for papers: Special Issue on ‘Agriculture and Economic development' in the Scandinavian Economic History Review

Call for papers for a special issue of the Scandinavian Economic History Review on ‘Agriculture and Economic development’

The special issue will consist of five to six individual papers, subjected to blind peer review and will also be edited by Paul Sharp. All contributions should be based on original new research and will be subject to normal peer-review process. Papers submitted by November 30, 2019 to the SEHR online submission platform ( will receive initial decisions by the end of February 2020. Please note in your cover letter than you presented at the DEGIT XXIV conference, and wish to be considered for the fast track.

Agriculture and Economic development

Agriculture plays a central role in economic history, and in fact it is only very recently that most of the world population has lived in cities. It is often assigned a rather passive role for development, however. For example, Lewis (1954Lewis, A. W. (1954). Economic development with Unlimited Supplies of labourManchester School of Economic and Social Studies28(2), 139191. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-9957.1954.tb00021.x[Crossref] [Google Scholar]) classic two-sector growth model suggests that agriculture is able to release labour to more dynamic sectors of the economy, without impacting on production. Likewise, Johnston and Mellor (1961Johnston, B. F., & Mellor, J. W. (1961). The role of agriculture in Economic developmentAmerican Economic Review51(4), 566593.[Web of Science ®] [Google Scholar]) presented a number of ways in which agriculture could aid development by gradually receding in importance, for example by saving to aid investment in the cities, and generating export income to allow for the import of modern technology. Moreover, Prebisch (1950Prebisch, R. (1950). The Economic development of Latin America and Its Principal ProblemsLake SuccessNYUnited Nations Department of Economic Affairs. [Google Scholar]) and Singer (1950Singer, H. W. (1950). The Distribution of Gains between Investing and Borrowing CountriesAmerican Economic Review40473485.[Web of Science ®] [Google Scholar]) argued that a specialisation in primary products was dangerous if the terms of trade turned against producers. More recent work has, however, presented agriculture in a more favourable and dynamic light: see for example Overton (1996Overton, M. (1996). Agricultural Revolution in England: The transformation of the Agrarian economy 1500-1850CambridgeCambridge University Press.[Crossref] [Google Scholar]) on the English Agricultural Revolution, Olmstead and Rhode (2008Olmstead, A. L., & Rhode, P. W. (2008). Creating Abundance: Biological Innovation and American agricultural developmentCambridgeCambridge University Press. [Google Scholar]) on American agriculture, Lampe and Sharp (2018Lampe, M., & Sharp, P. (2018). A land of Milk and Butter: How Elites Created the modern Danish Dairy IndustryChicagoUniversity of Chicago Press.[Crossref] [Google Scholar]) on the transformation of Danish dairying, and Evenson and Gollin (2003Evenson, R. E., & Gollin, D. (2003). Assessing the impact of the Green Revolution, 1960 to 2000Science300(5620), 758762. doi: 10.1126/science.1078710[Crossref][PubMed][Web of Science ®] [Google Scholar]), and Gollin, Hansen, and Wingender (2016Gollin, D.Hansen, C. W., & Wingender, A. (2016). ‘Two blades of grass: The Impact of the Green Revolution’. CEPR DP11611. [Google Scholar]) on the Green Revolution. This special issue invites contributions which assess the role of agriculture for development, both for example through its impact on long-run comparative development, and in terms of short-run technological and institutional change.
In terms of comparative development, Diamond (1997Diamond, J. (1997). Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human SocietiesNew York and LondonNorton. [Google Scholar]) for example argued that Eurasia enjoyed a number of advantages which meant that agricultural innovations spread faster in that continent after the Neolithic Revolution. Economists since Malthus have argued about the importance of land as a binding constraint on growth, and Unified Growth Theory argues that the Malthusian mechanism is key to understanding agriculture and development (Ashraf & Galor, 2011Ashraf, Q., & Galor, O. (2011). Dynamics and Stagnation in the Malthusian EpochAmerican Economic Review101(5), 20032041. doi: 10.1257/aer.101.5.2003[Crossref][PubMed][Web of Science ®] [Google Scholar]), although Federico (2005Federico, G. (2005). Feeding the world: An Economic History of agriculture, 1800-2000PrincetonNJPrinceton University Press. [Google Scholar]) explains that only between eighty and ninety percent of all cultivable land is in use today. Galor and Özak (2016Galor, O., & Özak, Ö. (2016). The agricultural Origins of time PreferenceAmerican Economic Review106(10), 30643103. doi: 10.1257/aer.20150020[Crossref][PubMed][Web of Science ®] [Google Scholar]) have argued that agricultural productivity has been fundamental in affecting growth and development through differential effects on time preferences. Recent contributions on agriculture and technological change include Nunn and Qian (2011Nunn, N., & Qian, N. (2011). ‘The potato's Contribution to population and Urbanization: Evidence from a historical ExperimentQuarterly Journal of Economics126(2), 593650. doi: 10.1093/qje/qjr009[Crossref][PubMed][Web of Science ®] [Google Scholar]) on the introduction of the potato to the Old World, and Andersen, Jensen, and Skovsgaard (2016Andersen, T. B.Jensen, P. S., & Skovsgaard, C. V. (2016). The heavy Plow and the agricultural Revolution in Medieval EuropeJournal of Development Economics118133149. doi: 10.1016/j.jdeveco.2015.08.006[Crossref][Web of Science ®] [Google Scholar]) on the impact of the heavy plough in the Middle Ages. Examples of important institutional developments might include land reform (Banerjee & Iyer, 2005Banerjee, A., & Iyer, L. (2005). History, institutions, and economic performance: The legacy of colonial land tenure systems in IndiaAmerican Economic Review95(4), 11901213. doi: 10.1257/0002828054825574[Crossref][Web of Science ®] [Google Scholar]), serfdom (Markevich & Zhuravskaya, 2018Markevich, A., & Zhuravskaya, E. (2018). The Economic effects of the Abolition of serfdom: Evidence from the Russian EmpireAmerican Economic Review108(4-5), 10741117. doi: 10.1257/aer.20160144[Crossref][Web of Science ®] [Google Scholar]), trade policy (O'Rourke & Williamson, 2001O'Rourke, K. H., & Williamson, J. G. (2001). Globalization and History: The Evolution of a Nineteenth-century Atlantic economyCambridgeMAMIT Press. [Google Scholar]), and cooperation (Beltrán Tapia, 2012Beltrán Tapia, F. J. (2012). Commons, social capital, and the emergence of agricultural cooperatives in early twentieth century SpainEuropean Review of Economic History16(4), 511528. doi: 10.1093/ereh/hes014[Crossref] [Google Scholar]).
Finally, there are many potential, relatively unexplored avenues for future work on the role of agriculture for development, for example in terms of the environmental costs of agricultural intensification (see Sharp, 2018Sharp, P. (2018). ‘Agriculture and Rural development’, Ch. 27. In M. Blum, & C. Colvin (Eds.), 2018), an Economist’s Guide to Economic History, 231–237. LondonPalgrave Macmillan.[Crossref] [Google Scholar] for more discussion of this). Given the historical and present-day importance of the sector, the editors of the Scandinavian Economic History Review are looking forward to a wide range of innovative studies on any aspect of the role of agriculture for economic development.
The deadline for submissions is November 30, 2019.

Submit your paper through the SEHR online submission platform here:

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