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We are pleased to announce the provisional programme for our Spring Conference 2022, which we hope will be held 4 to 6 April at Harper Adams University, Newport, Shropshire. Because of current uncertainties, we will make a final decision about whether to proceed with the conference in this form at the end of January. Registration will open around 1 February.

The Real Agricultural Revolution: The Transformation of English Farming, 1939-1985

Paul Brassley, David Harvey, Matt Lobley, and Michael Winter

An investigation into farming practices throughout a period of seismic change.

The Real Agricultural Revolution: The Transformation of English Farming, 1939-1985

In 1939 British agriculture was largely powered by the muscles of men, women, and horses, and used mostly nineteenth-century technology to produce less than half of the country’s temperate food. By 1985, less land and far fewer people were involved in farming, the power sources and technologies had been completely transformed, and the output of the country’s agriculture had more than doubled.

This is the story of the national farm, reflecting the efforts and experiences of 200,000 or so farmers and their families, together with the people they employed. But it is not the story of any individual one of them. We know too little about change at the individual farm level, although what happened varied considerably between farms and between different technologies. Based on an improbably surviving archive of Farm Management Survey accounts, supported by oral histories from some of the farmers involved, this book explores the links between the production of new technologies, their transmission through knowledge networks, and their reception on individual farms. It contests the idea that rapid adoption of technology was inevitable, and reveals the unevenness, variability and complexity that lay beneath the smooth surface of the official statistics.

Richard Hoyle adds: ‘This is the first volume to appear in the new Boydell Studies in Rural History. Both Boydell and I, as series editor, are delighted to launch the series with a work of such distinction and quality which we anticipate will be widely read and debated. Buy and enjoy!

Other volumes are in preparation: by the end of 2022 we expect to have published three volumes of essays (on agricultural networks, rural housing and early modern Scottish rural history) and a study of enclosure. Other works, both monographs and collections of essays, are in various stages of preparation. Our intention is to make a striking contribution to the discipline with books which are both accessible and challenging. The series’ remit by no means limits it to Britain and Ireland. Informal proposals are welcome: in the first instance they should be directed to me at and I can advise on making a formal proposal to the publisher.’

PAUL BRASSLEY is an Honorary University Fellow in the Centre for Rural Policy Research at the University of Exeter. DAVID HARVEY is an Associate Professor in the Department of Archaeology and Heritage Studies, Aarhus University (Denmark), and Honorary Professor of Historical Geography, University of Exeter. MATT LOBLEY is Professor of Rural Resource Management and Director of the Centre for Rural Policy Research at the University of Exeter. MICHAEL WINTER is Professor of Land Economy and Society in the Centre for Rural Policy Research at the University of Exeter.

Read Paul Brassley's entry in the Boydell and Brewer Blog:

Buy this book from Boydell and Brewer's web site for the special price of £39. Use the Offer Code BB135 at the checkout. Offer ends 31 December 2021.

Become a member of the BAHS and support Agricultural History

It’s easy to join the BAHS and by doing so you will be supporting the work of the Society in promoting rural history.

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The Online LIBrary of Rural and Agricultural Literature now comprises nearly 1000 digitized items, classified into more than 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.

Our apologies for having disappeared for some weeks. In early November the library was moved to a new platform which should have resolved some longstanding issues. Unfortunately the new set-up produced its own problems – solve some issues, make some new ones – and we have been unable to upload anything to LIBRAL for some weeks. The upload problem is now resolved and so we offer you here a number of works which should have been posted late last year. As always, we have gone for an eclectic mix.


The chief nineteenth-century addition is a further volume issued by the Library of Useful Knowledge, on Useful and Ornamental Planting (1832). We also have a prize essay on the improvement of the soil by Alexander Wright (1839). For the twentieth century, our books include a curious account of improvement on the edge of the New Forest by William Webb (1929) and two wartime farming memoirs, one of working on farms in southern England by Collis, While following the plough, and the other by a teacher who went to work on a farm near Ullapool in the western Scottish Highlands: Raymond O’Malley, One horse farm. Very different sorts of writing are a report on Scottish agriculture of 1934 and an account of sugar-making from beet by the British Sugar Corporation (1961).

A subsoiler raised out of the ground

We have added seven further counties to our coverage of The Land of Britain: essentially the south-eastern corner of England, from Kent and Essex to Hertfordshire and Berkshire.

General Views of the Month are Dorset and Monmouth. All the new additions are listed on the LIBRAL Gateway home page.


We hope that there will be no further interruptions to LIBRAL and propose to post another tranche of material towards the end of January.


Some of the books we have scanned for LIBRAL 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.


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.

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.

A Path Through the Trees, by Vivien Edwards, has won the Ian Wards Prize 2021.

This remarkable bibliography explores the life of Mary Sutherland, English-born of Scottish parentage, the world’s first known woman forestry graduate. After graduating from the University College of North Wales in 1916, Mary migrated to New Zealand in 1923, working in a number of roles for the State Forest Service. Despite the difficulties of winning professional recognition in an almost exclusively male occupation, she contributed substantially to the major afforestation schemes of the 1920s, in the central North Island and elsewhere, bringing her trained expertise to a number of the silvicultural conundrums encountered. Read more...

This book is available through Summerfield Books

Fruit Farming in the Cam Valley: An horticultural, social and economic history set within the regional and national context, by Jonathan Spain, was published by RiverRhee Publishing in June 2021.

This study sets out to celebrate and record the history of commercial fruit growing in the Cam valley whilst it is still within living memory, drawing on the experiences of fruit growers and workers in addition to a wide range of documentary sources. Whilst there was a long tradition of small scale fruit-growing in the district, from the 1880s there emerged a significant commercial fruit industry, supplying the increased demand for fruit in rapidly expanding towns and cities, made possible by the creation of the railway network. Read more...

Practising Community in Urban and Rural Eurasia (1000–1600): Comparative and Interdisciplinary Perspectives, edited by Fabian Kümmeler, Judit Majorossy, and Eirik Hovden, was published by Brill on 18 November.

This volume explores social practices of framing, building and enacting community in urban-rural relations across medieval Eurasia. Introducing fresh comparative perspectives on practices and visions of community, it offers a thorough source-based examination of medieval communal life in its sociocultural complexity and diversity in Central and Southeast Europe, South Arabia and Tibet. As multi-layered social phenomena, communities constantly formed, restructured and negotiated internal allegiances, while sharing a topographic living space and joint notions of belonging. Read more...

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 form to let us know your research interests, period and regions of interest. If you already have an entry, please check that it’s up to date and use the form to update it.