“God sleeps in the minerals, awakens in plants, walks in animals, and thinks in man.” ― Arthur Young
In our new display you will meet one of the first experts to publish widely on English farming practices and to encourage experimentation in agriculture, “Arthur Young, Agriculturalist and Traveller” (1741-1820). Arthur Young was an 18th century Suffolk born English writer who is best known for the detailed accounts he published of his travels in England, Wales, Ireland and France. Over the course of his life he produced 25 books and pamphlets on agriculture and 15 books on political economy, as well as many articles. You can view a selection of his books in this current display and others are located in the library’s Historical Collection:
Arthur Young’s publications include:
Young, A. (1785-1804) Annals of agriculture and other useful arts. [Historical book] Printed for Richard Phillips. 45 volumes (available in the Historical Collection)
Young, A. (1770) A course of experimental agriculture: containing an exact register of all the business transacted during five years … vol 1. [Historical book] Printed for J Dodsley Young, A. (1770) A course of experimental agriculture: containing an exact register of all the business transacted during five years … vol 2. [Historical book] Printed for J Dodsley
Young, A. (1794) The example of France – a warning to Britain. [Historical book] 4th edn. printed for W Richardson.
Young, A. (1809) The farmer’s calendar: containing the business necessary to be performed on various kinds of farms during every month of the year. [Historical book] 8th edn. Printed for Richard Phillips.
Young, A. (1792) Travels in France during the years 1787, 1788, and 1789. [Historical book] Printed by J Rackham.
Young, A. and Betham-Edwards, M. (1889) Travels in France during the years 1787, 1788, and 1789. [Historical book] 2nd edn. George Bell & Sons.
Young, A. (1780) A tour in Ireland: with general observations on the present state of that kingdom: made in the years 1776, 1777, and 1778 and brought down to the end of 1779. [Historical book] 2nd edn. Printed for T. Cadell.
Young, A. (1770) Rural oeconomy: or essays on the practical parts of husbandry … the Rural Socrates: being memoirs of a country philosopher. [Historical book] printed for T Becket.
Young, A. (1774) Political arithmetic containing observations on the present state of Great Britain: and the principles of her policy in the encouragement of agriculture … [Historical book] Printed for W Nicoll.
Young, A. (1771) The farmer’s letters to the people of England: containing the sentiments of a practical husbandman … to which is added Sylvae or, Occasional tracts on husbandry and rural oeconomics. [Historical book] 3rd edn. Printed for W Strahan and T Cadell.
An excellent biographical portrait of Young was written by Albert Pell and it is included in the Journal of the Royal Agricultural Society 1893 (Vol IV) which we keep in our library stock.
It is worth mentioning that his book Travels in France (1792) is particularly valuable to historians because it provides us with his observations of the social, political and economic conditions of the French countryside as it was convulsed by violent revolution.
Young was appointed to the Board of Agriculture in the British government in the position of secretary and he organized the collection and preparation of agricultural surveys of the English counties (the RAU Library holds publications from the Board of Agriculture in its stock and his name appears on them).
Also, it is noteworthy that Young was a supporter of property rights in agriculture as a means of reducing poverty. Some of his more famous sayings were “the magic of property turns sand into gold” and “give a man the secure possession of a bleak rock, and he will turn it into a garden; give him a nine years’ lease of a garden, and he will convert it into a desert.”
Young had many correspondents on agricultural topics in England, France, and the United States, including George Washington. The correspondence between Young and Washington reflected the topics covered in the Annals of Agriculture. They shared recommendations on types of seeds, plant yields, tools, and livestock. Washington frequently requested items for Young to ship to him. Young’s influence on Washington is evident in Washington’s last message to Congress as President when he argued in favour of the establishment of a national board of agriculture.
Later in life Young suffered from blindness brought on by severe cataracts and a failed operation to cure the condition.
Young’s legacy remains an inspiration even today after 200 years as an agricultural improver and social reformer. He advocated such innovations as the seed drill, improved crop rotations, and the use of marl as fertilizer. He advocated the enclosure of open fields and the settlement of the indigent on newly enclosed waste agricultural lands.
In one of his books he wrote: Agriculture is beyond all doubt the foundation of every other art, business, or profession: it has therefore been the ideal policy of every wise and prudent people to encourage it to the utmost.”