The dating of, and explanation for, the agricultural revolution in Europe remains an elusive research task. When and why did a low-productive pre-industrial agricultural sector turn into a fast-growing, more productive one? Unique data from Sweden, consisting of more than 80,000 observations of farm production output for the period 1700–1860, are used to calculate and explain decisive changes in pre-industrial agricultural production. Our estimations show that crop production more than quadrupled during the period studied, and from the 1780s and onwards production growth by far outstripped population growth. Furthermore, the data allow us to estimate the determinants of change at individual farm level. The results show that enclosures, markets and property rights were of significant importance. Institutional changes, affecting the incentives and the organization of production, made peasants invest in production and productivity. In a general sense this shows the flexibility and awareness of pre-industrial European peasants in exploiting markets and initiating institutional change.