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Waste management and peri-urban agriculture in the early modern Scottish burgh

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The anthropogenic deepening of soil for agriculture is a widely-recognised northern European phenomenon. In Scotland, geoarchaeological investigation has identified such anthropogenically-deepened soils in urban and rural contexts and interpreted them in terms of this more general experience, but has not explored the processes behind their formation. While it is well known that Scotland's medieval town-dwellers grew their dietary staples, their agricultural practices and impact on peri-urban fields has lacked detailed investigation. This paper reviews the geoarchaeological evidence and analyses documentary records from 17 Scottish burghs, illustrating a central component of burgess agriculture, the management of urban waste for use as manure. Burgh regulations reveal changing cultural attitudes towards waste in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries as fewer townsmen engaged directly in cultivation, but urban waste nevertheless remained in demand as fertiliser in the hinterland of many Scottish towns into the later nineteenth century.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2011-06-01

More about this publication?
  • Agricultural History Review is the leading journal for the publication of original research in all aspects of agricultural and rural history. First published in 1952, the Review reflects the diversity of approaches which are possible in rural history. Its editors welcome submissions in any aspect of the history of agriculture, rural society and rural economy over the past millennium. Whilst it is not concerned with current policy debates, it is interested in considering discussions of the historical dimensions of current problems in rural society and food supply. The Review is especially strong in British rural history, but actively seeks submissions in European and American rural history and has no bar on submissions concerning the remainder of the world. It is also the journal of record for book reviews in the discipline.

    Agricultural History Review has an international editorial board. The current editors are Professor R. W. Hoyle, University of Reading, UK who is responsible for articles, and Professor H. R. French, University of Exeter who serves as editor for book reviews. The Review is fully peer-refereed.

    Agricultural History Review is published by the British Agricultural History Society from whom personal subscriptions may be obtained.
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