Energy availability from livestock and agricultural productivity in Europe, 1815–1913: a new comparison

Econ Hist Rev. 2011;64(1):1-29. doi: 10.1111/j.1468-0289.2009.00526.x.


This article explores the proposition that a reason for high agricultural productivity in the early nineteenth century was relatively high energy availability from draught animals. The article is based on the collection of extensive new data indicating different trends in draught power availability and the efficiency of its use in different countries of Europe. This article shows that the proposition does not hold, and demonstrates that, although towards the end of the nineteenth century England had relatively high numbers of draught animals per agricultural worker, it also had low number of workers and animals per hectare, indicating the high efficiency of muscle power, rather than an abundance of such power. The higher efficiency was related to a specialization on less labour-intensive farming and a preference for horses over oxen.

Publication types

  • Historical Article

MeSH terms

  • Agriculture* / economics
  • Agriculture* / education
  • Agriculture* / history
  • Conservation of Energy Resources* / economics
  • Conservation of Energy Resources* / history
  • Conservation of Natural Resources / economics
  • Conservation of Natural Resources / history
  • Efficiency*
  • Europe / ethnology
  • Fossil Fuels / economics
  • Fossil Fuels / history
  • History, 19th Century
  • History, 20th Century
  • Livestock*
  • Physical Exertion*
  • Rural Health / history
  • Rural Population* / history
  • Socioeconomic Factors / history


  • Fossil Fuels