Agriculture and nutrition: the food revolution

Harry Lintsen

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The chapter analyses the fundamental changes in the agriculture and foods supply chain between 1850 and 1910 and investigates the consequences for the food supply, in particular for the poor. Initially, agriculture profited from the liberalisation of international trade. The mixed crop tillage farms in the region of the large rivers and on the sand grounds commercialised and specialised themselves. After 1880, cheap, especially American, grain imports cast Dutch agriculture into a profound crisis. In part because of this crisis a number of innovations were introduced, like the use of artificial fertiliser and the founding of agricultural cooperatives. In addition, common lands were to disappear and large tracts of heathland were to be reclaimed. The 1860s proved a turning point for the food processing industry. The revival of the domestic market in these years was a key factor. Also, a number of sectors oriented to foreign markets like the potato starch and the sugar beet industry flourished. The steam engine gained ground at the cost of horse-mills and windmills. Moreover new sectors like the margarine and the dairy-processing industry were established. The modernisation of agriculture and the food processing sector had contributed to the improvement of the food situation. That also resulted from changes in the tax structure, whereby taxes on food were lowered and from increased welfare. Quantitatively there was sufficient food at the beginning of the twentieth century, also for the poor. Potatoes and grain were still the main menu of the majority of the populace. The problem now shifted to food quality.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationWell-Being, Sustainability and Social Development
Subtitle of host publicationThe Netherlands 1850-2050
EditorsHarry Lintsen, Frank Veraart, Jan-Pieter Smits, John Grin
Place of PublicationCham
Number of pages18
ISBN (Electronic)978-3-319-76696-6
ISBN (Print)978-3-319-76695-9
Publication statusPublished - 14 Jun 2018


  • Agricultural crissis
  • Agriculture
  • Artificial fertiliser
  • Commons
  • Cooperatives
  • Foods
  • Innovation
  • Modernisation


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