Was there an agro-ecological crisis in Europe which preceded and contributed to pushing forward the agricultural revolution? This article presents a new theoretical and empirical approach to this controversial perspective on agricultural transformation and relates to an ongoing debate on conditions of growth in pre-industrial societies. The results demonstrate that there were indeed indicators of a crisis, which grew stronger during the eighteenth century and culminated in the early nineteenth century. The crisis was, however, not general, but was rather restricted to areas that stand out due to poor natural conditions for agriculture. In other words, the crisis was conditional. Furthermore, the findings show that the crisis could push forward changes that were important for enabling agricultural transformation and growth. However, both the emergence and reversal of the crisis were connected to new opportunities opened up by market development. Enough differences were found between different types of regions to suggest that there were many development paths within the agricultural transformation process, and that they were not necessarily linear.