Agriculture, American expertise, and the quest for global data: Leon Estabrook and the First World Agricultural Census of 1930

Ribi Forclaz, Amalia

In: Journal of Global History. - Cambridge. - Vol. 11(2016), issue 1, p. 44–65

Abstract: This article provides a history of the First World Agricultural Census of 1930, an ambitious international attempt to evaluate world agricultural resources through the compilation of global statistics on crops, livestock, and agricultural production. Based on primary archival material, it explores how the census emerged from the connections between American and international institutions at a time when food security and the need to address problems of trade and competition appeared as central economic concerns of interstate relations. The article focuses on the role played by the American agricultural expert Leon Estabrook (1869–1937) and a related network of scientists and economists in the preparation and implementation of the statistical survey. By examining how Estabrook's vision of economic development and scientific planning was shaped by his national background and redefined by his transnational engagement, the article sheds light on the global dominance and limitations of American scientific knowledge and agricultural practices in the interwar years. It uncovers the political manoeuvrings and negotiations that were necessary to move forward with the project, and assesses the survey's outcome against the backdrop of the global economic downturn of the 1930s.


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 Record created 2017-03-20, last modified 2017-03-20


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