The Statistical Assessment of British Agriculture (Continued from page 21) Evaluation of the Returns
Coppock, J. T
The returns have continued to expand in scope and complexity but their importance for the agricultural historian does not derive primarily either from their more recent developments or from the hazards of the experiments from which they originated, but from their value as source material for the reconstruction of past agriculture. It is a paradox that the more abundant is the source material the less highly is it regarded. The very abundance and continuity of the agricultural statistics reveal weaknesses and deficiencies which might not be apparent in a more limited body of evidence. Analysis of these will tend to over-emphasize the limitations of the data, but it must be remembered that many of these limitations are common to all such statistical data. The following examination of the returns may help to throw light on the worth of other sources such as the 18o1 Crop Returns.