In 1842, on the death of Thomas Coke, the second earl of Leicester, his tenants erected a monument to celebrate his encouragement of agricultural 'improvement'. A column was surmounted by a sheaf of wheat and flanked by a massive cow, plump sheep, and modern plough; the frieze around the base showed Coke passing on his advice to a prosperous and grateful tenantry. The monument symbolizes one view of the process and chronology of agricultural growth: a 'modernizing' landowner swept away ignorance, breaking the shackles of tradition, and allowing yields and output to rise at the close of the eighteenth century. But should the monument be read instead as an exercise in deference and self-justification? The analysis of Malthus and Ricardo would suggest a different interpretation: by the end of the eighteenth century, growth of output could only be achieved at the expense of decreasing marginal returns, and prices and rents rose as population growth outstripped the capacity of the land to provide food. Perhaps the monument, on the hill above Coke's lavish Palladian house, symbolized Ricardian rent rather than an agricultural revolution, marking the increased power and wealth of great landowners at the. expense both of consumers who paid more for their food and of farmers who paid more for the use of land. Were Malthus and Ricardo correct in their belief that the limits of agricultural production were being reached at the end of the eighteenth century, creating pressure on wages and profit, redistributing income to landowners, and threatening the onset of a 'stationary state'? If they were correct, and growth of output and productivity were faltering at the end of the eighteenth century, could it be that the growth of agriculture in the later seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries was rapid, and that it took place without the intervention of 'improvers' such as Coke?