Wood___Roberts_2011_Tradional_Economic_G

Wood_Roberts_2011_Tradional_Economic_G

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Unformatted text preview: n specter o f famine c ould be left b ehind b y the a doption o f r ational agricultural practices. 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 nd c onstant adaptations to time a nd place. (Thilnen 1966: 200) Thilnen's model was n ot principally a bout explaining change o r 'progress' yet, like Adam Smith, whose w ork T hilnen admired, he was concerned w ith progress in terms o f t he 'growth o f n ational prosperity' (1966: 201) a nd was quite aware o f how farmers i n a nyone place were affected by actions taken a nd decisions some distance from them. Thilnen lived d uring a p eriod o f e normous c hange i n t he geography o f agriculture a nd the decades after his death saw even more spectacular shifts as E uropean farmers were increasingly caught up in wider circuits o f trade. The trade i n a gricultural produce, m ost n otably grain, between countries in Europe was gradually freed-up i n t he late nineteenth century as p rotectionist policies, such as G reat Britain's C orn Laws which forbade the i mportation o f wheat, were repealed a nd G erman farmers, a mong others, suddenly h ad a n a dditional market for their wheat. Even m ore d ramatic w ere t he scalar shifts b rought o n b y European imperialism in the later p art o f the nineteenth century. As they built u p a nd c onsolidated their rival empires, E uropean c ountries r econfigured d omestic agricultural p roduction as crops (especially grains) were increasingly sourced from colonies a nd f ormer colonies such as those in N orth America. Thilnen's theory allowed for such shifts, a nd h e even n oted t hat t he rings c ould be observed emerging at a n i nternational scale i n s ome sectors; wool sheep farming was one example. However, it was n ot u ntil m uch later t hat geographers m ade m ore explicit reference to the Thilnen type rings emerging at t he w orld scale w ith the globalization o f c ommercial agriculture. The populated centers o f northwestern Europe appeared to some, such as P eter Hall, to constitute a ' World T hilnen T own' w hich s ourced its agricultural products from all over the world (Hall 1966: xlii). Thilnen's contributions to understanding agricultural l and use patterns have proven foundational. His insights were developed a nd refined by later analysts concerned w ith u nderstanding the changing geography o f farming. B ut as we n oted earlier, Thilnen's analysis is a bout m uch m ore t han t he rational selection o f crops a nd f arming methods. Rather, his broader concern is w ith t he rational allocation o f l and use. As e conomies have become m ore varied a nd complex his insights have been a dopted a nd a pplied beyond agriculture. Building o n T hilnen's work, particularly as i t h ad b een picked up by economist Alfred Marshall in his 1890 b ook Principles o fEconomics, scholars from R. M . H urd i n the first years o f t he t wentieth c entury ( Hurd 1 905) to William Alonso a nd o thers i n t he 1960s (for example, Alonso 1964) p roduced s ophisticated understandings o f the spatial differentiation o fland use in cities. A key idea t hat c an be traced back to Thilnen is t hat o f t he bid r ent o r b id price curve t hat c onnects l and price to l and use a nd has been applied to commercial, industrial a nd residential sectors in capitalist cities. Alonso, for example, postulated t hat i n a city different economic actors (such as i ndividual firms o r residents) will experience different bid rent curves for different land uses (factories, offices, homes). Some bid r ent curves such as for prestigious office o r retail space are steep, falling away rapidly from a central point, while others are shallower, such as for housing. J ust as i n t he Thilnen original these curves intersect such t hat u rban land use will tend to differentiate according to distance from t he city center. J ust as a c oncentric ring pattern o f different l and uses emerged i n T hilnen's mo...
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This document was uploaded on 01/24/2014.

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