History teaches us that the agricultural transformation process is a necessary step towards inclusive economic development, structural change, poverty alleviation and overall better living conditions. Rising productivity in agriculture allows for increasing incomes within agriculture and at the same time more resources can be devoted to other sectors. In effect, a secular growth in population can be matched by an even faster growth in food and other necessary items, initiating what is most known as ‘modern economic growth’ (Kuznets 1973). This process of change can be identified in agricultural-based societies in the past and the conclusions drawn from those experiences continue to be valid in contemporary times. There is a long tradition of studying the agricultural transformation as a universal process and numerous attempts have been made to model the various stages in the process. As stated by Peter Timmer (1998: 113): ‘The agricultural transformation has been a remarkably uniform process when viewed from outside the agricultural sector itself ’. The point of departure for this book, however, is that although the process is homogeneous when looked at from the outside, it is full of diversity within. To understand the variety of pathways leading to a completed transformation there is still much more to be learned, especially concerning drivers of change at the local level and incentives influencing farmers’ strategies. To tackle the challenge of learning about diversity and how it interplays with the universal framework we apply a global history approach, meaning that we seek to identify and explain changes that occur globally using a wide number of comparisons over time and space. The book includes a number of independent case studies representing a geographical and historical spread with the common denominator that they expose processes of agrarian change in the midst of more or less successful transformation processes. The methodological core can be equated to a reciprocal comparison, treating all cases as deviant when viewed through the expectations of the other (Pomeranz 2000). Focus is on the transformation process itself and the role of the case studies is to use comparisons to identify relevant factors constituting the universal process. Our aim is to analyse and understand different processes taking place during the transformation, if and how they are of a general character and in what ways the local context affects their impact. Drawing on the analysis and conducting a

comparison of the case studies, we aim at estimating the general relevance of the identified key factors for agricultural transformation and their importance in a global perspective.