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Joan Thirsk Memorial Prize awarded for Pyrrhic Progress

We are pleased to announce that the winner of the Joan Thirsk Memorial Prize for the best book on rural or agricultural history published in 2020 has been awarded to Claas Kirchhelle of University College, Dublin, for Pyrrhic Progress: the History of Antibiotics in Anglo-American Food Production (Rutgers UP).

Pyrrhic Progress: the History of Antibiotics in Anglo-American Food Production

The book is obtainable as a free PDF download, as well as in paperback, cloth, and ePub versions, from Rutgers University Press.

On presenting the prize, Paul Brassley, the President of the BAHS, said: ‘The year 2020 will be remembered for several bad things, but among the good things that happened was the emergence of a larger crop of Thirsk Prize candidates than ever before: ten books, with authors from six different countries, on topics ranging from early medieval pigs to the problems of the Common Agricultural Policy. It is never easy to decide upon the best in such a diverse field, but in a plague year it was always going to be difficult to ignore a book that deals with the history of a potentially major factor in the next pandemic, given the significance of antimicrobial resistance. Consequently this year’s Thirsk Prize has been awarded to Claas Kirchhelle for Pyrrhic Progress, a meticulously researched and compelling analysis of the differences between Britain and the USA in the use and control of antibiotics in agriculture.’

Claas Kirchhelle

Claas Kirchhelle

Winner of the 2021 Thirsk Prize

Spring Seminar Videos

Our Programme of Virtual Spring Seminars has ended now but the videos of all the presentations (except one) are still available on our YouTube channel. We encourage you to subscribe to our channel so that you receive notifications when we add new videos. And please don't forget to 'Like' the videos as well as watch them!


See the full programme here...

We had an unexpected treat at the fifth seminar. Miranda McCormick, granddaughter of A.G. Street (the subject of Peter Dewey's paper) read a poem by her mother, Pamela Street, 'Harvest Lament, or Combined Operation', which we have also put on our YouTube channel.

Pamela Street (1921–2007) cut her teeth with her little tribute to her adored father, My Father, A.G. Street (Hale, 1969), which included a Foreword by Sir Arthur Bryant. This was swiftly followed by her Portrait of Wiltshire (Hale, 1971), and in later life she went on to become a prolific novelist.

Miranda McCormick is the author of Farming, Fighting and Family: A Memoir of the Second World War (The History Press, 2015).

Farming, Fighting and Family: A Memoir of the Second World War

There is a little promo video for Farming Fighting and Family also available on YouTube.

Complete list of books reviewed

John Morgan has done a fantastic job creating a list of all books reviewed since the Agricultural History Review began publication in 1953. Search > Find Reviews now includes the complete list of reviews, and the side bar on the Review’s home page gives access to the reviews for each volume.

The Review has published reviews and notices of 2,620 books since 1953. The very first book reviewed was The English Farmhouse, by Martin S. Briggs.

Our most prolific reviewers have been Joan Thirsk (84 books reviewed over 56 years), G. E. Mingay (72 books reviewed over 37 years), and R. J. Moore-Colyer (51 books reviewed over 44 years).

The complete list of reviews is, in effect, a bibliography of publications on Agricultural and Rural History over the past seven decades.


The Online LIBrary of Rural and Agricultural Literature now comprises nearly 900 digitized items, classified into over 200 categories. The LIBRAL Gateway enables you to exploit this classification to find literature you didn’t know existed. And once you have entered the library itself, you can use its magnificent full-text search capability.

Chief amongst this month’s additions to LIBRAL are the eight volumes of he Handbook of the Farm series, edited by J. Chalmers Morton, and published in the first half of the 1880s. This is in effect a part-work encyclopedia covering many aspects of farming, from the soil and the chemistry which it was then thought appropriate for a farmer to know, to more conventional accounts of crops and livestok and the dairy. There is much here of utility ot the Historian.

We have added three other works of mid-twentieth century vintage: Ashby and Evans’s account of the Agriculture of Wales, Watson and Smith on Silage and Griffith et al., Reclaiming land for agriculture (both published in 1951 in Crosby Lockwood’s Agricultural and Horticultural Series). The last is impressive evidence of how the combination of government subsidy and heavy machinery opened up areas which had before been judged only to be fit for low-intensity grazing.

General view of the month is Vancouver on Hampshire (1813), kindly lent to us by the New Forest Heritage Centre in Lyndhurst. It might be noticed that our scan includes the folding tables omitted by at least one readily available set of images (also available as a facsimile reprint).

Some of the books we have scanned are available for purchase. Other than raising some money, we need to make room for more books. We make no great claims for the quality of the books – they are strictly working copies – but if there is anything you would like to have for a modest price, do get in touch.

Agricultural History Forum

Apparatus for lifting hay

This image started a discussion on our Agricultural History Forum, although we still don’t have a name for it. The forum is the place where anyone can ask questions or start discussions on any subject related to agricultural history and the history of rural economy and society. We’ve noticed that far more people have signed up to receive our newsletters than have signed up for the BAHS forums. Some of you are missing out on some interesting discussions, and the world is missing out on a huge pool of rural history knowledge. We would really appreciate it if more of you could sign up and be ready to join in the discussions! You can register here.


And if you have trouble remembering to look at this web site, sign up for our email newsletter. We send one out about once a month when the content on the web site changes. We promise not to bombard you with spam, and you can un-subscribe whenever you like, from a link at the bottom of each newsletter.

Work in Progress

Work in Progress is a list of researchers working in the field of agricultural history and the history of rural economy and society – and related disciplines. Researchers listed here have reported contacts being made with them as a result of their entry, making it a valuable resource. We made the word art below from keywords used by researchers in their entries.

Word cloud for WIP keywords

If you don’t already have an entry in the list please use the contact form to let us know your research interests, keywords, and period and regions of interest. If you already have an entry, please check that it’s up to date and use the contact form to let us know what changes you want to make.

Support Agricultural and Rural History

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