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European agriculture was quite sustainable until the appearance of fossil fuels and mined fertilizers in the middle of the 19th century... French population had been more-or-less constant since the Celtic era, at that point, with rises due to more efficient use of the soil's productivity, and two population dips due to systemic (but not necessarily caused by agriculture) crises.

I presume you meant from late medieval times to the end of the seventeenth century? France actually had very slow population growth by western standards in the second half of the nineteenth century (the withdrawal method - more effective then you'd think ;)In any case I don't believe fossil fuels were used in French farming in serious amounts until the twentieth century though I'd have to check to see if my memory is correct.

by MarekNYC on Mon Apr 21st, 2008 at 02:01:19 PM EST
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My reference to the middle of the 19th century is because it marks the arrival of trains, and thus the use of mined fertilizers which aren't all that sustainable.

As to population growth in the 18th century, indeed it was smaller than in other European countries, but that is also because more land had already been filled by agriculture than in, say, Germany.

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misères

by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Mon Apr 21st, 2008 at 04:28:04 PM EST
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No, population growth was faster in France during the eighteenth century, and much slower in the second half of the nineteenth. That's in spite of significant immigration and very low emigration rates. I'm not sure what it has to do with density - France has far more arable land than Britain, and I believe a bit more than imperial Germany (same land area, but IIRC a smaller percentage is arable), both of which had higher populations by the 1900, much higher in the case of Germany. It has to do with the Napoleonic laws governing inheritance and an earlier onset of a cultural norm of small families.  
by MarekNYC on Mon Apr 21st, 2008 at 06:31:51 PM EST
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