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People, Plants and GenesThe Story of Crops and Humanity$
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Denis J Murphy

Print publication date: 2007

Print ISBN-13: 9780199207145

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2007

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199207145.001.0001

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Crop management in the classical and medieval periods

Crop management in the classical and medieval periods

(p.221) chapter 13 Crop management in the classical and medieval periods
People, Plants and Genes

Denis J. Murphy

Oxford University Press

The classical and medieval periods of 1800 BCE to 1500 CE were characterized by some limited technical innovation in agriculture, but little progress was made in crop improvement as global populations ceased their expansion, which had been occurring since the early Holocene. Babylonian and Assyrian imperial rulers established a much-copied precedent of introducing new crops from conquered regions and in producing manuals for agricultural management. From 500 to 50 BCE, Greek naturalists began systematically to study plant biology and publish their findings, but this first blooming of scientific methodology proved short lived. Later cultures tended to reinterpret old knowledge rather than create it anew. From 700 CE, the expanding Muslim empires introduced many improvements into Mediterranean farming from the Near East, most notably in their Iberian realm of Al Andalus. Medieval farming in Europe was relatively stagnant and declined further after 1320 CE during the Little Ice Age.

Keywords:   Babylon, Assyria, plant biology, Greek naturalists, Medieval agriculture, Muslims, Little Ice Age

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