Get Adobe Reader
Site map


Please note that our postal address is really only for subscriptions. If you wish to contact an officer of the society or a member of staff, please use the Contact Form.

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.

Video recordings of the presentation of the Thirsk Prize, and all the presentations of papers at the Spring Seminars 2021 are available on our YouTube channel.

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.

We have a new Work in Progress form. Please use it to update your entry in the list of Work in Progress on Rural and Agricultural History.

The farming diaries of Thomas Pinniger, 1813-1847

From 1813 until his death in 1847, Thomas Pinniger kept a detailed daily account of the sheep and corn husbandry he practised first at Little Bedwyn Farm to 1825, and then as the owner of Beckhampton Farm in Avebury, Wilts., from 1829. These periods were separated by a stay on Sambourne Farm in Chippenham, when he was more an observer than an active farmer. These ‘Farming Memorandums’, as Pinniger described them, provide a fascinating and detailed record of the challenges that he faced throughout his long career. Farming practices and developments, prices of corn and livestock, and the weather were all recorded in detail. It is clear that they were not just kept for the sake of posterity, but as a body of knowledge and experience on which he could draw. His relations with his labourers and neighbours, not always cordial, add to the wealth of the content of the diaries.

Having moved to Beckhampton, Pinniger bought the eponymously-named established coaching inn in the village. Stables were constructed for both the farm and the inn, with the latter specifically for race horses. The fortunes of the inn faltered with the coming of the railway in the early 1840s.

As well as the obvious subject matter, Pinniger also noted the births, marriages and deaths of relatives, friends and acquaintances, revealing the social milieu in which he lived. Dates of funerals and of funeral services were also often provided, the latter rarely recorded in this period. He also provided a first-hand account of the unrest of the Swing Riots of 1830, which he viewed as a serious threat.

Alan Wadsworth has transcribed the years 1823 to 1838, and written an introduction that covers the whole span. In keeping such meticulous daily records over so long a period, Thomas Pinniger stands as the principal representative of the class of yeoman farmers, from early to mid-19th century Wiltshire.

At clxviii + 416 pages this publication is great value for money at £20, from the Wiltshire Record Society.

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 over 900 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.

This month LIBRAL presents for your delectation and education the usual variety of the familiar and not so familiar.

We start with a polemical discussion of Land in all its aspects by Platt (1886) and a rather more sober discussion of The Wheat Problem by Sir William Crookes (1917). We offer two didactic novels by the principle of the agricultural college at Cirencester, Professor Henry Tanner, Jack’s Education or how he learnt farming (1879) and The Abbotts Farm (1880) which dwell on the problems of agricultural education and the shock to agriculture following the downturn in agricultural fortunes after 1879. We present too the two volumes of memoirs by Frances Donaldson recounting her experiences acquiring and managing a farm in Warwickshire in the Second World War. There has been some discussion of how LIBRAL might be used for undergraduate dissertation materials: here are two opportunities.

We have also added to LIBRAL the articles on agriculture and aspects of agriculture contained in Chambers’s Information for the People (1857), introductory accounts which have a real utility for people wanting (then and now) a state of the art account of agriculture in the middle years of the nineteenth century. We have interpreted our brief a little more widely than is usual here, so we have also thrown in the articles on fisheries and angling.

We have a good wodge of government publications this month. First we have three Sectional Lists – HMSO’s own listing of the publications of government arranged thematically. These remain indispensable bibliographical guides. We have a little pamphlet of 1982, Farming and the countryside, which marks the reaction against the wholesale destruction of landscape and environment of the previous 30 years in the name of progress.

But most importantly we have added the first 17 years of the Ministry’s journal, Agriculture, covering 1895-1911, when it was being published under the auspices of the Board of Agriculture. We are using scans made by the Natural History Museum; unfortunately, we (or rather they) are a volume missing. We hope to be able to bring you this in the future. More Agriculture – of a much later date - next month.

General View of the month is Ross and Cromarty. In the spirit of the General Views we have added the survey of Hertfordshire agriculture made in 1931 by the University of Cambridge’s Department of Agriculture. And just to show we are even handed between the followers of Young and the supporters of Marshall, we have added Marshall’s Minutes of Agriculture, his account of farming near Croydon (1778).

We shall post some more in the next few weeks … we even know some of what is coming. Whilst we might like to you to believe that here at LIBRAL we never sleep – such are our efforts to bring you the exotic – we will be taking some holiday, so our next tranche of additions will be a little less bumper than this.

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.

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 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.

Support Agricultural and Rural 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.

Join Now and picture of Geese

More books on agricultural and rural history

More books