Cultivated acreage of Roumania—Comparative estimates of agricultural products; waste lands, &c.—Nature of soil—Rotation of crops—Agricultural implements—Old-fashioned ploughs—Improved machinery—Yield of cereals—Maize, wheat, rye, barley, &c.—(Note: Report of M. Jooris)—Uncertainty as to yield per acre—Estimates—Quality and value of Roumanian cereals—Slovenly cultivation—Cost of raising cereals—Uncertainty of estimates—Present position of agriculture—Discouragement of immigration—Competition of the United States—Cattle—Oxen and buffaloes—Sheep—Wool—Cheese, butter, &c.—Capabilities of the soil—Tobacco—Cotton—Agricultural education—The Agricultural and Sylvicultural College of Ferestreu—M. Aurelian—The grounds and buildings—External arrangements—Experimental growth of trees, fruits, cereals, &c.—Number of professors and pupils—Internal arrangements for board—Cost of education—Laboratory and excellent collections—History of the plough illustrated by models—'École des Arts et Métiers'—Manufacture of farm requisites—School of design—The peasantry—Their history—Varieties of tenure prior to 1864—Creation of a peasant proprietary by forced sales of land—Success of the reform—Subsequent allotment of state lands—The 'obligations rurales'—The dark side—Fate of improvident peasants—Forced to sell their labour—Quasi-servitude—The boyards or landed gentry—Improvidence and involved condition of many—Pledged estates—'Fermage'—Purchase of their lands by industrious peasants and others—Decline of the boyards—Excellent qualities of the peasantry—Great endurance—Industry of women—Education in progress—Bright future for the peasantry—Importance of their prosperity to the State—(Note: Comparative numbers of agricultural and other classes).


The area of Roumania, as already stated elsewhere, is about 49,252 square miles, and estimates have been made of the cultivated and uncultivated acreage, which approximate sufficiently to give us a fair idea of the agricultural condition of the country. According to those estimates, which were probably made at the period (1864) when the peasant proprietary was created, about one-fifth is employed for the growth of cereals, garden products, and vines; rather under one-third is pasturage and hay; one-sixth forest; and the remaining nine-thirtieths, or nearly a third of the whole, still remains uncultivated.

The soil of the country is rarely less than three to four feet in depth, is easily turned, and, as already stated, it is usually a dark argillo-siliceous earth, which is so greatly charged with humus (decaying organic matter) that manure is rarely found necessary. The rotation of crops is largely practised, usually maize, wheat, then fallow; but very poor soil, capable of producing only rye, is often allowed to lie fallow for many years together. Much of the cultivation is performed with very primitive implements, the ordinary old-fashioned plough being furnished with a share resembling the broad flattened lance-head of a harpoon, which penetrates the earth horizontally. Of late years, however, a constantly increasing number of improved ploughs, reaping, mowing, and steam threshing machines have come into use. In 1873, according to Consul Vivian's report, there were about 185,000 native ploughs against about 38,000 imported ones; but even then already there were nearly three times as many steam as there were horse threshing machines in use, and since that time the employment of all kinds of improved machinery has been greatly on the increase, and several large English and American implement makers have agencies in Roumania. There is little doubt that in the course of a few years the old-fashioned agricultural implements will disappear altogether; for the configuration of the surface, which in the plains somewhat resembles the rolling prairie of the far West, is peculiarly adapted for the use of modern machinery of every description.

The agricultural industry of the country may be said at present to be practically confined to the growth of cereals, especially maize, barley, and wheat, and the rearing of sheep and cattle. The total yield of cereals of all kinds has been roughly estimated at 15,000,000 quarters, which is but a very small part of what might be produced; and when we seek for information concerning the proportions of the different species of grain, we find nothing but statistics long out of date, and at variance with each other. The probable proportions are, however (subject to annual variations), one-half maize, one-third wheat, and the remaining sixth barley, rye, and millet, whereof the last named is increasing rapidly. As to the yield per acre, although we have gathered together all the information that could be obtained, we find it impossible to fix anything definite; nor is this to be wondered at if we look at the great differences which exist even in the United States of America, where the people are ravenous for statistics. On some farms in Roumania the yield is as low as eight bushels per acre, and if it were not that the peasants own the soil and perform their own labour, it would not pay for cultivation; but, on the other hand, we hear of very large yields on good farms, and notwithstanding these remarks, which might lead to the opposite conclusion, we are told on good authority that since the creation of the peasant proprietary the average yield per acre has considerably increased.

(Although it is impossible to fix anything like a definite yield, the following figures may serve as a basis of calculation, and they will at least allow how material has been the general increase in the production of cereals:—In 1869-70, Vivian gives the yield (which exceeds that of following years) as 31,264,953 hectolitres. In 1881 M. Jooris gives it as 45,000,000 hectolitres (one hectolitre = 2.75 bushels). Taking M. Jooris's estimate as 15-1/2 million quarters and the quantity of land under cultivation for cereals only as 6,000,000 acres, this would make the average yield of all cereals a little over twenty bushels per acre; and, looking at the very large preponderance of maize, barley, oats, and rye over wheat, that does not appear to be an unreasonable estimate. Beyond this we shall not venture to go, and if the reader desires to prosecute the enquiry further he will find ample materials in the consular reports, the works of various writers on Roumania, and a series of letters which appeared in the 'Times' last year from the pen of their Bucarest correspondent; but we must give him the very judicious and needful counsel which we ourselves received from a leading statesman of the country who favoured us with statistics: 'Il faut contrôler'—check everything.)

Owing to the rough and ready system of cultivation in Roumania, the maize, which needs no special care, is far better and more highly prized in this country than the wheat. The latter is worth, on the average, 5s. per quarter less than Western States spring wheat, and this is owing largely to the dirty condition of the seed-wheat used in Roumania; whilst, on the other hand, the maize is quite equal in quality and value to American mixed.

If it be difficult to calculate the yield per acre, it is impossible to give a trustworthy estimate of the cost of raising the various cereals. Attempts have been made to do so, and so far as they go they are no doubt accurate. For example, in an article on 'Farming in Roumania,' which appeared in the 'Times' of July 14, 1881, from the pen of its able correspondent, there are estimates of the cost of raising and carrying to market wheat, barley, oats, maize, &c.; but when we state that the yield of wheat is put down at 18.8 bushels, maize at 22.6 bushels, and barley at 37.7 bushels per acre, it will be seen by anyone acquainted with the agriculture of the country that this cannot be used to estimate the average cost per quarter. However, as it stands, the calculation of the total cost per acre is as follows:—Wheat, 66.35 francs, or (at 25.10 per 1l.) 52s. 10d.; barley, 59.70 francs, or 47s. 7d.; oats, 55.09 francs, or 44s. 4d.; maize, 59.29 francs, or 47s. 2d.; and the farmer, who is a large landed proprietor and employs labour, had evidently devoted more attention to the production of wheat than to maize, which is not usually the case. We obtained several estimates whilst in the country, but they differed so widely that it would not have been fair to strike an average, and all that can be safely said on the subject is that the conditions of cultivation are such as to point to constantly increasing production at a diminished cost per quarter for some time to come, inasmuch as the introduction of improved machinery will more than compensate for the gradual application of manure to the soil. There are, however, many obstacles to progress. For political reasons the Government discourages immigration from other countries, and therefore the untilled lands will have to be idle until there is a sufficiently large population to cultivate them. The Roumanian peasant is very conservative and slow to move, but improved communication, modern implements, the encouragement given to agricultural training, and last, but not least, the competition of the Western States of America, cannot fail to act as impulses to spur him on to increased exertions.

Next in importance to the growth of cereals comes the rearing of sheep and cattle; but this is of consequence to the country itself rather than to Western nations, as the export is comparatively small. The number of cattle bred in the country does not appear to increase materially. There are three varieties of oxen, and one peculiar kind of buffalo, of which there appear to be about one hundred thousand in the country. The buffaloes are very dark, almost black, with horns lying back upon the animal's neck, but in other respects they are hardly distinguishable from ordinary horned cattle. The value of cattle naturally varies in different parts; oxen are worth from 3l. to 10l. each, according to their size and capacity for draught, the greater part of the field labour being performed by those animals or by buffaloes. Sheep, goats, and pigs are also reared in large quantities. The wool of the first-named is used for spinning and weaving, and sheepskins with the wool left on are worn as winter garments. Cheese is also manufactured from sheep's milk, and a curious custom in Roumania is to make the cheese in the form of a long thin cylinder, wrapping bark tightly round it in the manufacture. From this slices are cut, bark and all, and served to the guest; this gives the cheese a slight, but not disagreeable, flavour of bark. Of cheese, wool, butter, and lard, considerable quantities are exported annually to Transylvania, Bulgaria, and Turkey. So far as England is concerned, the only other products besides cereals, which we receive, are small quantities of linseed and rapeseed; but Roumania produces millet, which is coming into increased consumption, rye, beans, beetroot, which is converted into sugar in two existing factories, flax, hemp, and, as we have already said, vines and every kind of fruit and garden produce. Her soil is capable of growing, and formerly did produce, very good tobacco; but in this matter she has shared the fate of Ireland, for the necessity of levying a tax on the article led to the suppression of its growth in the country; and, lastly, we were assured by able agriculturists that there is no reason why there should not also be raised in Roumania a plant which, of all others, ministers most largely to the comfort of man and the prosperity of the land of its production, namely, cotton.


No doubt the recent appointment of a Minister of Agriculture in Roumania will impart a considerable stimulus to the most important branch of national industry, but that is a question of the future. At present the only important aids to progress are the agricultural schools; for although there are small autumnal shows of grain and farm products, there has been only one agricultural exhibition, and that, we believe, was far from being a success. Committees are, however, formed in fifteen different districts on a somewhat similar basis to those of our science and art classes, to provide instruction in farming, and the fountain-head and centre of those is now the Agricultural and Sylvicultural College at Ferestreu, about two miles from Bucarest. This institution is well worth a visit, and the stranger is sure of a cordial reception from the director, M. Aurelian, to whose published works we have already made frequent reference. The work is carried on in a handsome building, which stands in extensive grounds not far from the termination of the Chaussée, or promenade, mentioned in our description of Bucarest, and the arrangements and appliances are admirable.

First as to the grounds. These are divided into sections, in which experiments are proceeding in the growth of every tree or plant which the Roumanian soil is capable, or is believed to be capable, of supporting. Besides extensive plots for all kinds of cereals there are small beds and plantations for named plants, flowers, and vegetables. Considerable space is devoted to vine-culture, where, besides many other kinds, we found Californian grapes flourishing; and in addition there are numerous orchards and collections of fruit trees, the variety of which testifies to the richness and productiveness of the soil. Apiaries are not wanting, but no cattle is reared on the grounds.

In the building instruction is given to about 120 pupils living on the premises, of whom one half devote their time to the study of practical farming, and the other to the manufacture of implements, for which there are workshops (ateliers) close at hand. There are ten teachers, of whom six rank as professors. The pupils are nearly all peasants and bourgeois; instruction is gratuitous, and the cost to the State is about 450 francs per head annually. The admission is by competitive examination, and for twenty vacancies in the agricultural section there were last year sixty applicants, whilst in the mechanical school the number of applications is still greater.

The arrangements for tuition in the interior of the building are quite on a par with the external ones. There are collections of dried plants, seeds, sections of wood, &c., and a smaller collection of geological and zoological examples. In one place the history of the plough is illustrated by means of models, beginning with the Egyptian, 2000 years b.c., and going through a long succession; the Greek, 490 b.c., the Roman, the Gallic, the Chinese, the Siamese, the primitive Roumanian (already noticed), with many others of ancient or mediæval times, and ending with a great variety of improved modern construction. Models of fruits, various products of hemp, and other vegetable fibres and tissues, and many other objects of interest to tho agriculturist, are to be found there. The laboratory is good, and the instruction imparted is of a useful and practical kind. In the 'École des Arts et Métiers,' the neighbouring workshops, everything is taught that is requisite for conducting the mechanical part of farm labour. Implements, wine and cheese presses, maize-separating machines, carts, and even tables and chairs for the homestead are made by the students with the aid of excellent machinery. Nor is theoretical training neglected. Besides being instructed in chemistry, plans and elevations of stables, granaries, cottages, &c., have to be drawn by the students, and their work is very ably executed. In fact the parent institution and its branches are exercising a most important influence on the agriculture of the country, and no one who has visited the college of Ferestreu will for a moment feel any doubt as to the great future in store for Roumania. The only matter of regret is that the funds of the institution do not fully suffice to meet its requirements; but it is to be hoped that these will be more liberally supplied than they have been hitherto by wealthy members of the community, such as the larger landed proprietors, and that dependence will not have to be placed on State aid alone. It is through the medium of these institutions that the peasant will have to acquire such instruction in improved agricultural methods as shall cause him to discard his old-fashioned notions, and enable him to secure an adequate return for his labour.


When we come to consider the past history of Roumania, we shall find that in the earlier periods the peasants were first independent tillers of the soil; that later on they were enslaved by the boyards, or sold themselves and their families to secure sustenance; that they were nominally emancipated from the ownership of the native boyards, only to be transferred as scutelnici to officials and other favoured nobles; and that eventually a democratic government and the increasing power of the people secured for them not only actual liberty but a real ownership of the soil which they had for centuries tilled for landlords who lived in idleness.

It will be interesting, especially during the present attempted land reforms in Great Britain and Ireland, to state here what has occurred in Roumania during the last few years, and to consider what further changes are likely to result from the conversion there of a large portion of the soil into peasant holdings. Previous to the year 1864 there were three kinds of tenure in Roumania in which the peasantry were interested. The soil of the country was practically divided between the boyards and the State, the former holding by far the larger share. The peasants owned a small patch of land contiguous to their huts or hovels (many of which are, as we have already stated, to this day semi-subterranean), and so much was their undoubted property. But they cultivated the soil on three different conditions or principles. In Moldavia the boyard allotted a certain portion of the estate to his peasants for cultivation for their own use, and in return the latter rendered stipulated services to their landlord. In Wallachia a portion of the fruits of the soil was given to the boyard for the right to cultivate a definite quantity of land; and in the neighbourhood of Bucarest a kind of mixed system prevailed. In 1864, however, the Government practically said to the boyards, 'The peasantry have been deprived of their right to the soil, but you, having inherited it, have also a vested interest in it, and your respective ownerships must now be equitably adjusted.' The peasantry were therefore put in possession of about one-third of the landed estates at prices, fixed by the Government, to be paid to the landlords. Those prices were not always equitable. Table-land which was cultivable was assessed at the same value as hill-country to the disadvantage of the former. However, such as it was, the arrangement was carried out. The peasants of course had no money; therefore the Government paid the boyards, taking the titles of the land in pledge, and the peasants were bound to repay the amount to the State in annual instalments. The Government in turn created a loan, the 'Obligations Rurales,' which were to have been paid off in 1880, but they were not quite extinguished a year after they should have been, and a portion of the remaining debt was converted into a new loan which will expire in 1924. It was, however, only a small proportion of the original debt, and this fact speaks volumes for the industry of the peasants. The change did not, however, end there. About five or six years since State lands were allotted to about 50,000 of the peasants who were too young in 1864 to profit by the emancipation; and this was done on still more favourable terms, the land being sold at the old prices of 1864, although it had risen greatly in value, and the purchase-money repayable in fifteen years. Now, to all intents and purposes, every peasant is the proprietor of his holding, and one of the wisest things done by the Roumanian Government was to pass an act before the expiration of the 'obligations rurales,' which prevented the alienation of their holdings by the peasantry for a period of thirty years; otherwise a portion of the land would have fallen to usurers and harpies who were speculating on being able to secure it when it came into possession of the nominal proprietor, by advancing loans upon it, as they do upon that of the improvident landlords.

But this leads us to the dark side of the picture. The industrious peasantry, who form the large majority, have paid for their allotted lands, and a great many continue to buy from the indigent boyards. Many are, however, still embarrassed, and some even in virtual servitude, this being the result of their own indolence and misconduct. For a large number of idle or destitute peasant holders, being unable to pledge their land in consequence of the act just named, are forced to sell their labour for one, two, or more years in consideration of money payments by their landlords, such contracts being permitted by the State and enforced by the local authorities and by custom and public opinion; that is to say, the breach by a peasant would reduce him to starvation, as no one would supply him with the necessaries of life. As nearly as we have been able to ascertain, about one-third of the whole peasantry are owners of their holdings without hypothecation, are doing well, and buying up additional land; about the same proportion are in possession of their holdings, but find it necessary to pledge their labour for one year, or perhaps a somewhat longer period, whilst the remaining third are practically serfs on their own farms.


Now as to the boyards, or old landed aristocracy. There are many wealthy landowners, and those who manage their own estates are the most prosperous. A large proportion, however, contract with sub-tenants to farm the land for a fixed sum (fermage). Amongst these many are poor and involved. When we were at Bucarest the 'Crédit Foncier' held titles of land to the extent of fifty millions of francs, and that probably represented about one-third of the whole known mortgages of the country. Since about 1870, when the rate of wages began to rise in consequence of the formation of railways and the resulting increase in the demand for labour, a momentous change has taken place. Improvidence and fermage have sounded the knell of the old landed gentry. Their estates have in many cases been bought up by the fermiers, their sub-tenants; the peasantry have purchased considerable quantities of land in addition to that allotted them by the State, and merchants and traders have also obtained possession of a portion by purchase, thus laying the foundation of an influential middle class, which at the present time can hardly be said to exist in the country. The consequences of this change cannot fail to be the development of agriculture, provident landowners, and the general prosperity of the entire nation.

We hesitate somewhat to draw any further comparisons between the past land reforms of Roumania and those in progress in Ireland or impending in Great Britain; but certain striking contrasts force themselves upon our attention. In Roumania a portion of the soil was taken from the boyard at a fixed price and sold to the peasant, without delay or litigation: the results being, first, an immediate improvement in the condition of the peasant, and his ultimate independence and prosperity; secondly, an exposure of the uselessness and helplessness of the indolent boyard landlord so soon as he was forced to attend to his duties and pay for his labour; in many cases his rapid decadence and extinction. For Ireland, under similar conditions, an Act is passed by which, to some extent in the direct interest of the Irish landlords, and indirectly for the protection of those in Great Britain, the old conditions of landlord and tenant are sought to be retained and amended, or the land to be transferred by sale, involving what are practically lawsuits with their appeals and all their delays, or an interminable period (about thirty-five years as against fifteen) for repayment. In Roumania the people, through their parliament, fixed the conditions of transfer, and the boyards were forced to submit after centuries of exaction and tyranny; in Britain the Parliament, consisting largely of landowners and persons opposed to all reforms, and from which the representatives of the aggrieved parties were almost entirely excluded, has groped about for a remedy, thwarted and threatened at every step by an irresponsible body of legislators, who have for the time being resolved themselves into a trades union of landowners; and masses of the peasantry have been driven into the roads. What the future result of the Irish land reform will be it is impossible to predict. We can only hope for the best.

We have already said that the Roumanian peasant is old-fashioned and slow to move, but he has also excellent qualities. He possesses great hardihood and endurance, and will work, not very constantly it is true, during the hottest weather from five a.m. to eight p.m. with a couple of hours for meals and rest during the heat of the day. On the other hand he will face the keenest cold with a bared breast, and is satisfied with mamaliga as his daily food. As we have already said, the women work harder even than the men, besides doing a great deal of work at home, which only Roumanian women are able to perform. The children work also, beginning often at five years of age, but they attend school during the winter from October to April. As we shall see presently, the progress of education is slow; for although there is supposed to be a school in every village, many of them are closed, and there is a great want of teachers. Education is, however, progressing steadily, but it will be a generation or two before every peasant is able to read and write. As in the town, so in the country, there are a great many fast days, which the peasants do not, however, always observe. During the week days they are abstemious, but, although they do not get drunk, they spend their Sunday in drinking, and one of the greatest curses of the country has been the substitution of alcohol prepared from grain for the old plum-spirit which was formerly drunk and which was much less injurious in its after-effects. All things considered, however, the future of the peasant is not dark. If he is at all industrious, he owns his farm, and by sobriety and diligence his possessions are increasing annually; the gradual spread of elementary and technical instruction, of which the foundations are firmly laid in the country, will open his eyes to the advantages which he enjoys; and soon he will appreciate the fact, already known to all enlightened persons in Roumania, that upon the labours and exertions of the peasantry depend not only their own fortunes, but the future progress and prosperity of the fatherland.