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Unformatted text preview: del, the
same pattern appeared in early models o f u rban land
use (Figure 2.3).
Thus, T hilnen's m odel, while originally developed
for examining agricultural land use i n early nineteenth
century G ermany c ontained a n umber o f f oundational
insights t hat have influenced n ot j ust o ur u nderstanding
o f t he geographies o f agriculture b ut o f l and use m ore
broadly. 19 I
11 I1· '
I II !Iil 18 TRADITIONAL LOCATION THEORY TRADITIONAL ECONOMIC GEOGRAPHIES I1'1'1 ;'1
'111 1. 11 IIII III' 1111\1
11 11 CJ ~ CJ Free cash
cropping Forestry Crop
system ." rn Il Improved
farming 1 \1 II'II!
Fig I I !I II
; 11'1 ,11 \
1 I [I. I::1 ' I!
Fig II :111:: ! II
Miles 1,1 J Ilill l o 40 I Figure 2 .2 The isolated state
Source: based o n Thiinen 1966: 216.
1 1 :11 p attern because Thilnen assumes t hat t ransport costs by
water are one tenth o f the cost o f land freight (1966: 215).
T he d iagram indicates c oncentric rings o f v arying
w idths a round t he t own, each c ontaining a d ifferent
agricultural use. The rings, their definition a nd c ontent,
were derived from applying calculative logic based o n t he
concept o fland r ent b ut s upplemented by other considera
tions such as soil fertility. T hilnen identified six rings:
First ring: H ere 'free cash cropping' will occur. This is
e ssentially w hat w e k now as m arket g ardening: t he
c ultivation o f ' delicate' fruits a nd vegetables such as
strawberries a nd lettuce. Thilnen also assigned dairying to
this ring. Milk production, h e reasoned, is c omplementary
to market gardening as c attle can be kept intensively
eating c ut clover a nd left over vegetables i n stalls rather
t han n eeding extensive grazing pastures. The l and r ent in
this ring is h igh and, w ith t he application o f a dditional
manure, soil fertility can be raised, eliminating the need
for fallow periods.
Second ring: This is t he zone o f forestry in which w ood
a nd charcoal for fuel a nd t imber for urban construction
are sourced from managed forests. I n T hilnen's time, wood was the major fuel for townspeople as well as those i n t he
T hird ring: This is a relatively narrow ring in w hich d ie
'crop alternation system' prevails. Grain crops (such as rye)
a nd feed crops (such as clover) alternate a nd t here is n o
fallow period. The soil is e nriched t hrough the applica
tion o f m anure. Thilnen spent a considerable part o f
his b ook discussing the various systems o f c rop alterna
tion e merging i n n orthern E urope a nd p redicted t hat
over time innovative crop rotation systems w ould be
widespread. I n t he initial model, though, they occupy a
F ourth ring: The ' improved system' is p racticed i n this
ring. Here, arable l and is used in t urn for grain a nd r oot
crop cultivation a nd for pasture. Fields are periodically left
fallow a nd fertilized w ith m anure.
Fifth ring: Here the traditional three-field system is
prevalent. Fields rotate from arable to pasture to fallow.
Sixth ring: Stock farming. This ring is t oo far from the
town for grain cultivation as t he t ransport costs w ould
o utweigh revenue generated from its sale (see Figure 2.1).
However, T hilnen p oints o ut t hat i f t he g rain were
distilled a nd c onverted to a lcohol- a higher value product
- it could be transported profitably to market. Further
more, in this zone by-products o f the distilleries could be
used for animal feed. Animals are grazed extensively i n this
zone, w ith t heir wool a nd m eat sold i n t he t own . Thilnen
predicted t hat as t he e conomy prospered, working m en
a nd w omen w ould increase their c onsumption o f m eat
i nstead o f relying o n p otatoes o r rye bread for their
n utrition , a nd d eemed this to be a positive development
since, he reasoned, it w ould lessen the likelihood o f a
serious famine. Thilnen's isolated state was thus, in part,
a n ideal world i n w hich the Malthusian specter o f famine
c ould be left b ehind b y the a doption o f r ational
Beyond the sixth ring, Thilnen argued, cultivation
ceases as t ransport costs (among others) exceed l and r ent.
This is a z one in w hich ' a few hunters roam', 'living
virtually like savages' (1966: 157). Beyond this ring is
' uninhabited wilderness.'
The boundaries o f each ring a nd the extent o f the rings
are d etermined b y the prevailing price o f the staple crop
- assumed to be grain (in G ermany i t was rye) - and soil
fertility levels. Thilnen also allowed for transition zones where the rings w ould s hade i nto o ne a nother a t their
margins. T hilnen r ecognized t hat i n r eality farmers'
decisions were influenced considerably by soil quality a nd
b y the vagaries o f taxes, a nd h e spent m uch o f his b ook
discussing such concerns. H e also understood t hat farmers
were n ot privy to complete knowledge a nd observed t hat
a ny c hange in farming practices usually followed some
period o f inertia:
i n t he w orld a round us the local farming system is
never the fruit o f a n all-embracing recognition o f
e verything o f relevance. I t is t he piecemeal w ork o f
c enturies a nd generations; i t has become w hat i t is
by slow, continuous improvements a n...
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