This paper presents estimates of agricultural productivity (net value added per full-time labour unit) for 21 German regions for the years 1880/4, 1893/7 and 1905/9. The estimates are derived from regional accounts for agricultural production and costs. The methods used to draw up these accounts are discussed, and there is also an analysis of Hoffmann’s national agricultural accounts. The estimates show that productivity in East-Elbian agriculture was growing rapidly in the period, and tending to converge on the German average. Productivity in southern Germany was not growing so fast. The reasons for this improvement east of the Elbe are examined using a Kreis-level data set. This shows that yield improvements were not limited to large farms and estates, but that smaller holdings also had access to new technology and improved husbandry methods.
In short, East-Elbian agriculture should not be seen as backward or bound by tradition: it was a modern sector capable of rapid improvements in techniques and methods of production.