Young, Arthur

Young, Arthur
b. 11 September 1741 London, England
d. 20 April 1820 Bradford, England
English writer and commentator on agricultural affairs; founder and Secretary of the Board of Agriculture (later the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food).
He was the youngest of the three children of Dr Arthur Young, who was at one time Chaplain to the Speaker of the House of Commons. He learned Latin and Greek at Lavenham School, and at the age of 17 was apprenticed to a mercantile house, an occupation he disliked. He first published The Theatre of the Present War in North America in 1758. He then wrote four novels and began to produce the literary magazine The Universal Museum. After his father's death he returned home to manage his father's farm, and in 1765 he married Martha Allen.
Young learned farming by experiment, and three years after his return he took over the rent of a 300 acre farm, Samford Hall in Essex. He was not a practical farmer, and was soon forced to give it up in favour of one of 100 acres (40.5 hectares) in Hertfordshire. He subsidized his farming with his writing, and in 1768 published The Farmer's Letters to the People of England. The first of his books on agricultural tours, Six Weeks Tours through the Counties of England and Wales, was published in 1771. Between 1784 and 1809 he published the Annals of Agriculture, one of whose contributors was George III, who wrote under the pseudonym of Ralph Robinson.
By this time he was corresponding with all of influence in agricultural matters, both at home and abroad. George Washington wrote frequently to Young, and George III was reputed to travel always with a copy of his book. The Empress of Russia sent students to him and had his Tours published in Russian. Young made three trips to France in 1787, 1788 and 1789–90 respectively, prior to and during the French Revolution, and his Travels in France (1792) is a remarkable account of that period, made all the more fascinating by his personal contact with people differing as widely as Mirabeau, the French revolutionary leader, and King Louis XVI.
Unfortunately, in 1811 an unsuccessful cataract operation left him blind, and he moved from London to his native Bradford, where he remained until his death.
Principal Honours and Distinctions
Chairman, Agricultural Committee of the Society of Arts 1773: awarded three Gold Medals during his career for his achievements in practical agriculture. FRS. Honorary Member of the Dublin, York and Manchester learned societies, as well as the Economic Society of Berne, the Palatine Academy of Agriculture at Mannheim, and the Physical Society of Zurich. Honourary member, French Royal Society of Agriculture. Secretary, Board of Agriculture 1793.
His first novels were The Fair Americans, Sir Charles Beaufort, Lucy Watson and Julia Benson.
His earliest writings on agriculture appeared as collected letters in a periodical with the title Museum Rusticum in 1767.
In 1770 he published a two-volume work entitled A Course of Experimental Agriculture, and between 1766 and 1775 he published The Farmer's Letters, Political Arithmetic, Political Essays Concerning the Present State of the British Empire and Southern, Northern and Eastern Tours, and in 1779 he published The Tour of Ireland.
In addition he was author of the Board of Agriculture reports on the counties of Suffolk, Lincoln, Norfolk, Hertford, Essex and Oxford.
Further Reading
J.Thirsk (ed.), 1989, The Agrarian History of England and Wales, Vol. VI (deals with the years 1750 to 1850, the period associated with Young).
T.G.Gazeley, 1973, "The life of Arthur Young, 1741–1820", Memoirs, American Philosophical Society 97.

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