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The BAHS is the national society for the study of the history of agriculture, rural society and the landscape of Britain and Ireland. The Society regularly updates this web site, with its online Library of Rural and Agricultural Literature (LIBRAL), online discussion Forums, Work in Progress list, and Related Links. In addition we publish a magazine, Rural History Today, as well as a scholarly journal, Agricultural History Review (both of which are available online), and our conferences provide opportunities for historians (professional and non-professional) to meet, mix and exchange views in a friendly and sociable atmosphere.

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


This month we are pleased to announce the LIBRAL Gateway. We have completely redesigned and rewritten the LIBRAL pages, to integrate the Online LIBrary of Rural and Agricultural Literature fully with the BAHS website and provide a means of finding books by author, type, date range, region, county and so on. The library is still hosted on TannerRitchie’s MEMSOshell platform, but you can get directly to the library items from this site.
The library now comprises 630 digitized items, which are, incidentally, classified into over 200 categories. We hope that the LIBRAL Gateway will enable you to exploit this classification to find literature you didn’t know existed. Of course, if you know what you are looking for, you can go straight to LIBRAL in the usual way. And LIBRAL still provides its magnificent full-text search capability: the LIBRAL Gateway is complementary to it.
We continue to digitize new items and add them to the library: the recent additions are listed on the LIBRAL Gateway home page. They include two which deserve a special mention. We are greatful to Sarah Wager (whose paper on the hays of medieval England we published in 2017) for lending us The Harvester (above) so that we could digitize it before she deposits it at the Warwickshire Record Office; and to Mr Martin Thirsk and Dr Jane Robinson for allowing us to digitize their mother's edition of primary sources, Suffolk farming in the nineteenth century.
If you have any books that you would think would be a useful addition to the library please contact the Web Weaver. We would, in particular, like to hear from anyone who has any second-generation general views of Welsh counties, as we would like to add them to our growing list of general views.

Kitchen Table Talk to Global Forum: Call for Papers

Kitchen Table Talk to Global Forum

Save the date and join the Rural Women’s Studies Association at the University of Guelph, situated just west of Toronto, for the Triennial Rural Women’s Studies Conference, 13-15 May 2021. The RWSA is an international association for the advancement and promotion of farm and rural women’s gender studies in historical perspective. The conference theme is ‘Kitchen Table Talk to Global Forum’. Guelph is ‘Canada’s Food University’ and is internationally recognized for its impact on agricultural sciences and rural life.

The RWSA welcomes public historians, archivists, graduate students, rural organizations and communities as conference participants, as well as scholars from diverse fields, including sociology, anthropology, literature, Indigenous Studies, and history. Consider proposing a research paper, panel discussion, roundtable, performance, workshop, poster/exhibit, or focused discussion. See the conference web site for details.

Latest BAHS publications

Agricultural History Review Volume 67 part 2 is now available online. We have introduced a new feature: lists of book reviews for the past six volumes (to which we will add in the future). From these you can get straight to the book reviews section for the volume in question. We hope this will increase visibility of our book reviews on the web. To incorporate this feature we have redesigned the Agricultural History Reviewhome page Cover of current Agricultural History Review
Cover of current issue of Rural History Today Rural History Today issue 38 is now available online.

New arrangements for the Review

Professor Richard Hoyle is standing down as editor of Agricultural History Review after 20 years service. His successor will be Professor Paul Warde of Pembroke College, Cambridge, who will take charge from Volume 68. With immediate effect new article submissions to the Review should be sent to Professor Warde at (or use the online contact form).

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. This month we have redesigned the facilities for filtering the list. In particular, we used the keywords in your entries to make a drop-down list to choose from. And from the same list we made the word art below.
Word cloud for WIP keywords
If you don’t already have an entry in the list do fill in the online form to create one. If you already have an entry, please check that it’s up to date and contact the Web Weaver to amend it.

Folklore, Learning and Literacies

The Folklore Society is holding their annual conference on Folklore, Learning and Literacies, 24-26 April 2020 in Central London.

Rural Museums Network Regional Seminars

The 1940s Farm at Beamish, The Living Museum of the North

If you are a non-specialist working with, or looking after, rural and agricultural collections in any role, the Rural Museums Network (RMN) has created a practical knowledge-development seminar specifically for you. This national programme, run regionally, is free to attend, and comes with a bursary.  Details.

email newsletter

Do you have trouble remembering to look at this web site? Would you like a reminder now and again? We plan to send out email newsletters about once a month (on average) 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.

BAHS forums

Do have a look at BAHS forums, where you can ask questions or start discussions on any subject related to agricultural history and the history of rural economy and society. Even if you don’t have a question in mind right now you might be the one person able to answer one of the questions that are there! So please register now and subscribe to the ‘Agricultural history’ forum so that you will be notified by email about any new posts.

Boydell & Brewer Series

Boydell & Brewer, the leading independent publisher of academic works in History and the Humanities, has a new series, Boydell Studies in Rural History, under the editorship of Professor Richard Hoyle.
Read more... Adobe PDF icon.

Funding opportunities

We have a fund available to support otherwise unfunded Conferences and Initiatives. If you are considering holding a conference, workshop, special meeting or something similar, why not apply?   We also offer bursaries to student members who want to attend our conferences and other meetings supported by the Society.

Spring Conference 2020

Booking is now open for the 68th annual British Agricultural History Society Spring Conference, Historical Perspectives on Rural Economies, Societies, Landscapes and Environment, 6-8 April 2020 at Wortley Hall Conference Centre near Sheffield.

Wortley Hall

Programme and registration form

Recent Publications

The Changing Fortunes of a British Aristocratic Family, 1689-1976 The Campbells of Cawdor and their Welsh Estates, by John E. Davies, is published by Boydell & Brewer.
For over two hundred years, the Campbells of Cawdor were major landowners, industrialists and politicians. Originating in Nairnshire, Scotland, they moved in the late seventeenth century to south Wales, where they became the second largest landowner in Wales and owners of significant coal and lead mines. They participated politically in the British state as MPs, peers, lords of the admiralty including one first lord, treasury lords, admirals and army officers. They supported local good causes, were involved in London 'society' and were major art collectors. As such their story is fairly typical of many other aristocratic families in the period. This book traces the development of the family, its estates and activities from the late seventeenth to the late twentieth century. It shows how they established their wealth and power during the eighteenth century, the period when the landed aristocracy was at its height, how they responded in the nineteenth century to the moves towards more democratic forms of local and national government and how, despite the difficulties aristocratic families and estates faced in the twentieth century, they survived, selling off their Welsh lands and returning to their Scottish base, which remains a flourishing agricultural estate and tourist destination.
Changing fortunes of a British aristocratic family

Order online and get this book at the offer price of £55.25: just enter the offer code BB135 at the checkout!
Cover of the Politics of Hunger The politics of hunger: Protest, poverty and policy in England, c. 1750–c. 1840 by Carl Griffin is published by Manchester University Press.
The 1840s witnessed widespread hunger and malnutrition at home and mass starvation in Ireland. And yet the aptly named ‘Hungry 40s’ came amidst claims that, notwithstanding Malthusian prophecies, absolute biological want had been eliminated in England. The eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries were supposedly the period in which the threat of famine lifted for the peoples of England. But hunger remained, in the words of Marx, an ‘unremitted pressure’. The politics of hunger offers the first systematic analysis of the ways in which hunger continued to be experienced and feared, both as a lived and constant spectral presence. It also examines how hunger was increasingly used as a disciplining device in new modes of governing the population. Drawing upon a rich archive, this innovative and conceptually-sophisticated study throws new light on how hunger persisted as a political and biological force.
Wem, by Judith Everard, James P. Bowen, and Wendy Horton, is published by VCH Shropshire
Wem lies on the North Shropshire Plain, about nine miles north of Shrewsbury. The centre of a much larger medieval manor and parish, the township consists of the small medieval market town and its immediate rural hinterland. Anglo-Saxon in origin, the town developed after the Norman Conquest, with a castle, parish church, market and water mill. The urban area of the township, ‘within the bars’, was distinguished from the rural, ‘without the bars’. Burgages were laid out, with a customary borough-hold tenure, but the borough never attained corporate status. Isolated from the main regional transport routes, Wem developed as a centre of local government and trade in agricultural produce, especially cheese. It was thrust onto the national stage in 1642 when Parliamentarians defeated a Royalist attack and held the town for the duration of the Civil War. The ‘great fire’ of 1677 then destroyed many of the existing buildings in the town centre, leading to its predominantly Georgian and Victorian appearance today. The decline in agricultural employment and the withdrawal of services and industries from small market towns like Wem in recent decades is a challenge, met by the advantage of the railway station to residents who work elsewhere but choose the town as a place to live.
Cover of Wem
Vermin, Victims and Disease: British Debates over Bovine Tuberculosis and Badgers Vermin, Victims and Disease: British Debates over Bovine Tuberculosis and Badgers by Angela Cassidy is published by Palgrave.
This open access book provides the first critical history of the controversy over whether to cull wild badgers to control the spread of bovine tuberculosis (bTB) in British cattle. This question has plagued several professional generations of politicians, policymakers, experts and campaigners since the early 1970s. Questions of what is known, who knows, who cares, who to trust and what to do about this complex problem have been the source of scientific, policy, and increasingly vociferous public debate ever since. This book integrates contemporary history, science and technology studies, human-animal relations, and policy research to conduct a cross-cutting analysis. It explores the worldviews of those involved with animal health, disease ecology and badger protection between the 1970s and 1990s, before reintegrating them to investigate the recent public polarisation of the controversy. Finally it asks how we might move beyond the current impasse.
Angela Cassidy is a Lecturer in the Centre for Rural Policy Research (CRPR), University of Exeter, UK. She works across the history and social studies of science, researching public controversies and policy through an interdisciplinary lens.

Update on Laxton

As part of our Spring Conference last year (2019), we visited Laxton Open Field System, with Professor John Beckett of Nottingham University. Professor Beckett has sent us this update.

Laxton open field system

The annual Jury Day was held this year on 28 November, and was followed by a meeting of the Court Leet on 5 December 2019.

At Jury Day the new owner, Hugh Matheson on behalf of the Thoresby estate trust, told the farmers that the long silence since the original deal was agreed with the Crown Estate was a result of the Crown being unable to provide evidence which Hugh thinks is vital for him as future owner. It is all a little tedious I suspect, but not having any drainage maps, or any idea of who is responsible for certain things in the village, has made life difficult all round.

At the Court Leet it was announced that many of the drainage maps had reappeared, some of them misfiled in the papers of the agents, Carter Jonas. Many other details have still to be worked out, but Gregor Matheson, on behalf of the Thoresby estate trust, told the court that Carter Jonas had now answered many of the queries that had been raised with them, and that the trust fully expected to go ahead and sign the transfer papers in the next few weeks.

The Trust then expects to call several meetings, including one for the whole village, and another for the estate tenants. The latter meeting may determine the actual date of the transaction in such a way as to avoid disruption of the annual agricultural cycle or rent days.

I remain optimistic that Laxton is passing into good hands, and that at least in the medium term the future of the village looks secure.

John Beckett
5 December 2019

Publicity leaflet

The Society has a publicity leaflet. If you would like copies of the leaflet to distribute to potential members, or to leave at a location likely to be frequented by potential members, please contact us.

Bursary Announcement

The Richard Jefferies Society has established a bursary to support work on Jefferies or related topics: highly suitable for agricultural history applicants.