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To study Russia before the late 19th century is to labour under a twofold handicap.
A gentleman should never tell, but Food in Early Modern England is published 50 years after the appearance of Joan Thirsk's first book, English Peasant Farming (1957). Between those dates, Thirsk has published, edited and contributed to a formidable list of volumes and journals.
As even the most casual observer of the British historical scene must know, the 'agricultural revolution' has proved both elusive and highly contentious. French 'immobilism', on the other hand, has become something of a commonplace, although explanations for this supposed failure are less consensual. Philip Hoffman's very welcome new book has two overriding merits.
This new study of the agricultural revolution is clearly the product of many years of study and research. It is closely argued, liberally illustrated with figures and tables, and tersely written and remarkably compressed. Intended primarily for students, it will repay careful reading, and re-reading, by teachers as well as students of the subject.