YOUNG, ARTHUR ( 1741-1820), English writer and traveler, whose account of his travels in France in 1787, 1788, and 1789 remains one of the most important sources for the state of the country on the eve of the Revolution. Despite repeated failures as a practical farmer on his ancestral property in Suffolk and elsewhere, Young was a passionate believer in new agricultural techniques and experiments. By the 1770s he was well known as a commentator on agricultural and economic matters. His Tour in Ireland of 1780 foreshadowed in its approach and organization his later work on France.
In 1784 he was visited by the two sons of the duc de Liancourt and their Polish tutor, who were touring England. In April 1787 Young was invited to join the Liancourt family on an expedition to the Pyrenean spas, and he set off for France in May, returning in November. Between July and October 1788 he made a second French tour, alone; and between June 1789 and January 1790 he made a third, which included a three-month expedition into Italy. On these travels, which between them took in most of the important regions of France, he kept a journal, which he published along with a set of general reflections and observations in 1792 under the title Travels, during the Years 1787, 1788 and 1789. Undertaken More Particularly with a View to Ascertaining the Cultivation, Wealth, Resources, and National Prosperity of the Kingdom of France. It was an instant success and was translated into French in 1793 with the official approval of the Convention, which distributed 20,000 free copies. Historians have turned to it ever since for its vivid and carefully observed impressions of agriculture, industry, politics, and manners at the close of the Old Regime and in the early months of the Revolution.
Young was a man of powerful prejudices, and his Travels must be read with these in mind. He made no allowance for the difficulty of introducing English agricultural methods into France and by the 1780s was an unrepentant believer in the benefits of free trade. His speculations on the reasons for some of the things he saw, such as the emptiness of the roads or the apparent poverty of