The Rationalization of Agricultural Resource Use
The most important resources in pre-modern agriculture were land, water, the labour force and draft animals. How to utilize these resources is central to the development of agriculture. The more rational the use of resources, the higher their productivity. Therefore, rationalization of agricultural resource use can be seen as one of the major ways to develop agriculture. The rationalization of land use seems easily understandable, especially in a region such as early and mid-Qing Jiangnan which had no additional land available. But how is it possible for such a region with a surprisingly high density of population to make more rational use of its great and growing labour force? Conventional wisdom about Ming-Qing Jiangnan suggests that the growing surplus of labour blocked any possibility of more rational use of agricultural labour with the result that farming became increasingly ‘involutionary’.1 Is this point of view consistent with the data we can gather about early and mid-Qing Jiangnan? In addition, was there rationalization of either water use or animal use since water was plentiful and only a few peasant households raised oxen in Jiangnan? To answer these questions, it is necessary for us to make a closer and more careful analysis of resource use.
KeywordsRice Cultivation Human Labour Winter Crop Land Preparation Summer Solstice
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