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If we journey back to the year 700 (I dont't know quite a lot about that time besides that it was the middle ages and their crappy hygiene, farming techniques and living standards) we come across very basic and inefficient farming methods. What if we were to give these farmers agricultural methods similar to ours, or even slightly more advanced? I was thinking along the lines of aquaponics or even completely automated climate controlled growing faculties (assume that power is magically generated and that noone cares or is curious enough about electricity and that pests and diseases won't invade).

With this hugely increased food production and heavily changed farming method (which would change a farmers life drastically), how would this affect the development of societies in that time (and perhaps outline the difference of the impact between European and Asian societies please if you could :)

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closed as too broad by JDługosz, James, Hohmannfan, Frostfyre, kingledion Dec 5 '16 at 15:25

Please edit the question to limit it to a specific problem with enough detail to identify an adequate answer. Avoid asking multiple distinct questions at once. See the How to Ask page for help clarifying this question. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • $\begingroup$ Why do you think aquaponics or climate control would improve things? Even today, they are highly inefficient, and used only for specialized, high-value crops, such as fruits & vegetables (and a certain smokable herb :-)) that are grown out of season. $\endgroup$ – jamesqf Nov 20 '16 at 18:11
  • $\begingroup$ Questions along the lines of "I want to make this change. What happens?" are generally too broad to properly fit the SE model. In this specific case, you're asking us to describe societal advancement of the entire planet over the course of 1316 years, which falls well within the too-broad close reason. $\endgroup$ – Frostfyre Dec 5 '16 at 13:22
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"What if we were to give these farmers agricultural methods similar to ours"

The productivity of modern agriculture is mainly given by two factors:

  1. capability to use the control/use the energy to work the fields - do you realize how much infrastructure you need to create and get to run agricultural machinery? Conjure into existence steel/metallurgy, petrol, roads/transport, etc. to get "modern farming". If you get those, there's little difference from the "modern world" (cca late 1800)

  2. fertilizers - Haber-Bosch process is probably the other factor that is needed for the modern agriculture.

Those 2 alone would allow to feed the entire population with only 7-10% of it working in agriculture.

Of course, knowledge on selective breeding and whatnot are going to help, but given the two above you can skip highly productive breeds/varieties in the first phase .

Hydroponics? Last time I checked, nobody is growing staple (corn/wheat/rice, potatoes, sugar cane/beet, oil crops) in hydroponics condition - it's simply too expensive even today.

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Modern agriculture depends on few high yield crops, mechanization, fertilizers & pesticides. You can't transport those in the middle ages without supporting industries chemical, machines, petroleum, storage, transportation etc.

If you want to just increase yields, so you could support more people with less percentage of population dedicated to agriculture I would suggest to use techniques from organic farmers like Masanobu Fukuoka who managed to achieve similar yields as modern agriculture in many crops. His techniques are very labor intensive but that won't be a problem in your world.

The other question is too broad to answer and borders on speculation.

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It depends a bit on what you call 'efficient'. This article makes quite interesting reading. Although it is probably safe to say that the data from the medieval period needs to be taken with a large pinch of salt there is certainly no massive improvement in yields untill really the 1950s and although there is a gradual upward trend it is pretty flat throughout the early industrial period.

However what did change was that farming became a lot less labour intensive and agriculture becomes much more of a centralised business and much less subsistence based. A big part of this was as much about wider social and economic changes as improvements in agricultural technologies per-se.

It is also interesting to consider the population over this period. Throughout what you might broadly call the middle ages in Britain the population was pretty stable, in fact it too a massive hit during the black death which didn't fully rcover untill the end of the medieval period.

Equally with very few other industries there simply wasn't much for people to do apart form growing food to feed their families and so no major incentive to improve efficiency in term of labour requirments.

As mentioned in another answer the enclosure acts from about 1600 onwards started to change this and made subsistence farming a much less viable option and changed the average peasant from a fialry self sufficient entity into a unit of labour.

So if you were to magically transplant modern mechanised farming into a medieval setting one very likley result would be mass unemployment and probably economic chaos. While landowners woudl be able to produce food with minimal labour nobody woudl have any moey to buy it. See the corn laws to get some sense of the real historical implications of this sort of situation.

Another aspect is that it simply isn't credible to have mechanised farming and agrochemicals but keep the rest of the economy running on medieval technology.

In fact although some of the earliest hints of the industrial evolution came in agriculture it was really quite a late adopter of mechanisation and the real push only came during the second world war when Britain very quickly had to drastically increase production to replace lost imports. Up to this point it had imported a lot of food and let agriculture more or less tick over in fact this period would be a good one to look at to get some ideal of how rapid modernisation of agriculture worked in real history.

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  • $\begingroup$ "While landowners woudl be able to produce food with minimal labour nobody woudl have any moey to buy it."... and there would have been a much earlier lesson in economy (than the today's trend towards massive automation/robotisation/outsource to cheaper manufacturing countries and the impact on middle/lower class). I wonder what the solution would have been? Massive conquests, early World Wars? Marie Antoinette no longer decapitated because brioches wouldn't be a luxury anymore, thus could be distributed to the poor (social protection applied much earlier)? $\endgroup$ – Adrian Colomitchi Nov 21 '16 at 6:52
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Do not be too hasty to throw away simple farm techniques like crop rotation and irrigation canals. Your characters can do really advanced ground analysis and land surveys in secret from the local population and come up with great improvements to production and infrastructure. A simple laptop filled with "agriculture for dummies" or "aqueducts made easy" epubs could be a history changer.

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I think that changing the lifestyle for masses of people changes too much. Economic and social issues of the time were centered around landowners and rural tenant farming. So because it would literally change everything history-wise, that might make your concept too large to sustain in a realistic way. One or two people with fore-knowledge would be different. They could hide their special knowledge without changing all of history. If you are writing your story in the current time and using this idea as when an alternative history spilt-off -- that might work.

It would be like knowing to buy Microsoft back in the late 70s -- if everyone got in on it, all history would be different. If one or two people were able to buy stock, it would change their futures and perhaps still have a major impact on many.

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