Arthur Young was a tireless propagandist for agricultural improvement and spent most of his life travelling in England, Wales, Ireland and France, observing agricultural methods and arguing for scientific improvement.
The son of a rector, Young was initially employed as a trainee merchant in King's Lynn, then a busy port servicing Norfolk and Cambridgeshire, but he was of a restless temperament and more interested in writing than in commerce. In 1761, at the age of 17, he published a pamphlet On the War in North America. The same year he went to London to start a periodical, The Universal Museum, and whilst there wrote four novels. During the early 1760s he was also involved in several farming ventures, and from 1768-77 he farmed in Hertfordshire where he applied the new ideas of scientific farming, writing up his results in A Course of Experimental Agriculture (1770). However, he again found himself more interested in writing than in actual farming and in the same years managed to undertake a number of journeys through England and Wales which were to provide the information for several books in which he described the agricultural methods he observed: A Six Weeks Tour Through the Southern Counties of England and Wales 1768; A Six Months Tour through the North of England, 1770; and The Farmer's Tour through the East of England, 1771. These books were widely influential and were translated into many European languages.
His The Farmer's Calendar of 1771 went through a great number of editions, and in 1774 his Political Arithmetic, a work in political economy was again widely translated and influential. In 1776-78 he toured Ireland and published his findings in A Tour in Ireland in 1780.
In 1784 he began the publication of the Annals of Agriculture, which continued for 46 volumes until 1815 and did more than any other publication to disseminate and proselytise for new agricultural methods.
He visited France in 1787, 1788 and 1789 and provided valuable accounts of the lives of the ordinary people and of civil administration on the cusp of the Revolution in his Travels in France (or Travels During the Years 1787, 1788 and 1789, Undertaken More Particularly with a View of Ascertaining the Cultivation, Resources, and National Prosperity, of the Kingdom of France) which was published in 1792.
In 1793, when the war with France threatened the nation's food supplies, he was appointed secretary of the British government's newly created Board of Agriculture where he oversaw the preparation of agricultural surveys of many English counties and continued to urge the case for agricultural improvement.
Clark, Robert. "Arthur Young". The Literary Encyclopedia. First published 21 July 2004
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