4.2: Poor, Nasty, Brutish, and Short
Although the world’s productive systems continued to be heavily centered on agricultural production throughout this period, major changes occurred in agricultural labor, the systems and locations of manufacturing, gender and social structures, and environmental processes. Adapting to the Little Ice Age, farmers increased agricultural productivity by introducing new crops and using new methods in crop-and-field rotation. Economic growth also depended on new forms of manufacturing and new commercial patterns, especially in long-distance trade. Political and economic centers within regions shifted, and merchants’ social status tended to rise in various states. Demographic growth—even in areas such as the Americas, where disease had ravaged the population—was restored by the 18th century and surged in many regions, especially with the introduction of American food crops throughout the Eastern Hemisphere. The Columbian Exchange led to new ways of humans interacting with their environments. New forms of coerced and semicoerced labor emerged in Europe, Africa, and the Americas, and affected ethnic and racial classifications and gender roles.