Scottish Agricultural Revolution

The Agricultural Revolution in Scotland began in the mid-18th century with the improvements of Scottish Lowlands farmland and the beginning of a transformation of Scottish agriculture from one of the least modernized systems, into what was to become the most modern and productive system in Europe. The traditional system of agriculture in lowland Scotland had existed unchanged for hundreds of years. In many ways it was a totally rural economy, the land being worked by the cottars on the centuries-old runrig system of subsistence farming.

The British Agricultural Revolution led directly to what is increasingly becoming known as the Lowland Clearances, when hundreds of thousands of cottars and tenant farmers from central and southern Scotland were, in many cases, forcibly moved from the farms and small holdings they had occupied for hundreds of years.

Many small settlements were dismantled, their occupants forced either to the new purpose-built villages built by the landowners such as John Cockburn of Ormiston to house the displaced cottars on the outskirts of the new ranch-style farms, or to the new industrial centres of Glasgow, Edinburgh, or northern England. Tens of thousands of others emigrated to Canada or the United States, finding opportunities there to own and farm their own land. Many of the recently displaced Scots found a new home in Nova Scotia and would remain there for generations.

Some chose to remain on the land, either by choice or out of sheer necessity, but rents were increased to the extent that tenants or sub-tenants were eventually forced to sell. Consequently, the cottars and their way of life disappeared altogether in many parts of lowland Scotland.

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