What would happen if human civilization was to experience a catastrophe? What if the flu, killer robots, nuclear war or a zombie apocalypse killed off the modern complex world. What if you were one of the lucky few survivors, and now it is now your turn to start again, what would you do? And no, don’t even think about your phone (there is no internet and who would you phone anyway?), infrastructures, buildings etc are all destroyed.
I find the answer to this question relatively easy, I would turn to the plow. The tool that shaped and changed the modern society and economy as we know it today. Let’s start off with some history.
14 000 years ago, people were hunters and gatherers, who lived in small groups and survived from the game they killed and what barriers they picked. But then came the first agricultural revolution, also known as the Neolithic Revolution. It evolved the wide transition from humans hunting and gathering to one of agriculture and settlement. This made it possible for experimentation, humans learned how plants grew and develop which would eventually lead to the domestication of plants, thus the first agricultural societies were born.
No one knows for sure what sparked this sudden changed. But the shift took place in western Eurasian 11 000 years ago, 10 000 in India and China, and 8 000 years ago in America and the Andes. This changed eventually happen everywhere, and it saw people settling down by fertile land and farming – which meant breaking up the surface of the soil to bring up the nutrients and letting the moisture further down in the ground.
At first, farming was done by sticks, but later the plow was developed. The tool that would change the world. The plows were held primarily by hand, but further developments saw plows being pulled by cattle. This worked remarkably well. This new lifestyle saw real prosperity, the agriculture efficiency lead to an excess of food, which meant that other people could find other professions, such as miners, smiths, scholars etc. It was now the real economical cities and hubs started to appear, all thanks to the plow.
However, there is a small contradiction. When a more plentiful supply of food meant more control for the surplus, the competitions created rules and ruled, masters and servants. Class differences started to appear and it enables the rise of kings and rulers – to ultimately organize and live off the work of others.
One reason why Britain entered the Industrial Revolution was thanks to the plow. As agriculture continuously improved, less and less workforce was needed on the fields. This left many people jobless. In the search for work they left into the cities and started to work in factories, hence the industrial age was born.
The plow fundamentally changed and improved the agriculture industry, and it still does today and will undoubtedly continue to do so in the future. What many fail to realize is how the plow changed the world we live in, and the economy that was shaped by it.