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His earliest journey takes him in a south-westerly direction, through the Orleannais and the Berri, where for the first time he meets with métayage—"a miserable system," he writes, "that perpetuates poverty and excludes instruction;" and he goes on to describe the fields as "scenes of pitiable management, and the houses, of misery." Throughout the entire work we find métayage, or farming on half profits, condemned in the strongest terms, yet nothing has done more to improve the condition of the peasant and of husbandry within the last fifty years.1 Métayage, indeed, which is but another name for co-operative agriculture, forms the stepping-stone from the status of hired labourer to that of capitalist; and whilst the métayer raises himself in the social scale, extensive wastes are by his agency brought under cultivation. We find 27,484 métairies in the department of the Landes, 24,893 in the Dordogne, 11,632 in the Allier, 11,568 in the Gironde, whilst in the Haute Savoie and the Lozère they may be counted by the hundred, the last-named numbering 325 only.
So popular is "la culture à mi-fruits," that, according to the census of 1872, 11,182,000 hectares were in the hands of métayers, and 9,360,000 in those of peasant owners. In most cases, be it remembered, the métayer owns a bit of land.
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Two conditions are necessary to success: in the first place, the fermier-général, or farm bailiff, must be dispensed with; in the second, a good understanding is necessary between the two contracting parties—the one supplying land, stock, and implements, the other, manual labour, all produce being equally shared.
From fifty to a hundred and fifty acres is found to be the most favourable size of a métairie.
After he inherited his father's family estate in 1759 he began experimenting with agricultural improvements in order to maximise output.So rapid is the progress that the great novelist herself would hardly recognize certain portions of the country she has described so inimitably.What, then, must be the changes wrought in a hundred years?The transformation is partly realized by inspecting a pre-Revolutionary hovel.
Here and there may be seen one of these bare, windowless cabins, now used as an out-house, and, in juxtaposition, the neat, airy, solid dwellings the peasant owners have built for themselves.Young was an 18th C pioneer in the detailed observation of economic conditions in the countryside and the collection of statistical data relating to agriculture.