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Society News

We hope that all our members and supporters are keeping well in these troubled and trying times.

The work of the Society continues even under Lockdown. Part one of the Review has now been distributed although we fear that those of you who have it posted to your work addresses (including the editor himself!) will only see it when universities and businesses reopen. (Members can of course access it online via Ingenta.) We continue to post new items to LIBRAL. Work has continued on the development of the Society’s website.

The Executive Committee has considered how to carry on the Society’s business at a time when conventional meetings are impossible. Members will recall that the Annual Conference at Wortley Hall had to be cancelled at short notice as it fell after the beginning of the lockdown. This was regrettable but hardly within our control: mercifully it was less financially damaging than we initially feared. With the cancellation of the conference neither the Executive Committee meeting nor the AGM could take place.

The Executive Committee has now held a virtual meeting and decided that it would be futile to hold an AGM in 2020. We considered doing so by Zoom but there were logistical problems in its way and we were concerned that few would attend. We considered holding it at the Winter Conference. In the end we decided that the best option was to hold a single AGM for two years at the next Spring Conference.

This of course means that the normal elections of Executive Committee members and officers have not taken place. This was more problematical than might seem. The Treasurer, Dr Bill Shannon, wished to stand down and in his place the EC has appointed (until the next AGM) Mr Derek Shepherd of the University of Plymouth Business School. The Society is enormously grateful to Bill for his work as Treasurer over the past few years. Dr Sarah Holland has also resigned as secretary. Professor Richard Hoyle will act in her place until the 2021 AGM. Members of the EC will remain in place until the next AGM, and the EC will handle the normal AGM business, subject, of course, to future ratification. The accounts and annual statement to the Charity Commissioners have now been posted on the Society website. Those with sharp eyes will note that the presentation of the accounts has changed.

We don’t consider these arrangements to be ideal, but we do feel that it is the best that can be managed in the circumstances. If you feel that we have called it wrong, do write and express your feelings to the Secretary, Richard Hoyle,

In 2021 we will be electing new officers and members of the EC. Members of the Society might like to consider whether they want to throw their hats in the ring: the officer posts are working, hands on posts and day-to-day engagement is required. The Executive Committee posts require commitment beyond two meetings a year but they are open to all members. We do have a power of co-option until the next AGM so anyone who would like to contribute immediately they should contact Richard Hoyle or Henry French.

The Executive Committee is determined that there should be a Winter Conference and planning is underway to ensure that this happens. We had already decided to make the conference available online, but the University of London has recently cancelled all room bookings through to the end of 2020, depriving us of our usual venue. The question is whether we look for another venue and web cast the conference or whether we should simply run a virtual conference. Of course, a virtual conference would lack the usual conference conviviality. But whilst conditions in December are unpredictable, many might still be unwilling to travel to the capital and sit in a room with limited social distancing. Whilst we muse on this, we welcome comments and suggestions from members.

The Spring Conference will be held as usual (unless conditions change). It will be held at Denham College near Abingdon on 12-14 April 2021.

Denman College

Details of the Winter Conference and the Spring conference will follow in the future.

Meanwhile, two of our members, James Bowen and John Martin, have written a short paper on an aspect of the present crisis on the Policy and History website.

And if Netflix is looking jaded, you might like to try a recent lecture given at the Huntington Library in Los Angeles: Christopher Clark, Professor of History at the University of Connecticut at Storrs, explores how conflicts in agriculture over possession of land and slavery in 19th-century United States shaped the nation.


The Online LIBrary of Rural and Agricultural Literature now comprises nearly 800 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.

This month’s smorgasbord of additions to LIBRAL is notable for including the first farming encyclopedias we have uploaded. We have included two post-Second World War encyclopedias, Brade-Birks's Modern Farming (1950), in three volumes and Duckham’s Farming (1963) in four volumes.

We intend to add two more in the next few months: Hanley (ed), Progressive Farming: the maintenance of high production (4 vols, 1949) and Wright’sStandard Cyclopedia of modern agriculture (12 vols, 1909-12). Brade-Birks and Duckham weigh in at over a 1000 pages a piece which has been testing, but Wright presents a considerable challenge, so it will be added to LIBRAL volume by volume over the autumn and winter. We then aim to add to the site some of the classic nineteenth-century encyclopaedias, including Stephens’s Book of the Farm which went through several editions after its first publication in 1844.

Alas, there is no pickled fish in this month’s additions. We have added several octavo General Views including Middlesex, Berkshire, Worcester, the very northernmost English counties, and East Lothian. There are more General Views to follow next month, including Cheshire.

We have added four monthly issues for Agriculture from 1964 to give a taste of what is in this journal. In the future we will add a run covering the 1950s.

There is much more in the eclectic mix which we try and achieve each month including an early manual on artificial insemination.

Enjoy! Still no herring though.

MERL logo

We’d like to draw your attention to a Fellowship opportunity that relates to the Open Spaces Society archive, which is held at The Museum of English Rural Life. They advertised this Fellowship just before lockdown and have had a limited response. They have now extended the deadline to 31 August 2020.

The MERL has also published an Open Spaces online exhibition, and two blogs about the collection have been published, by Helena Clarkson and Felicity McWilliams. A full description of the collection is available here.

Agricultural History Forum

Apparatus for lifting hay

This image recently 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. 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 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 contact use the contact form to let us know what changes you want to make.

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.

But please note that due to the closure of university buildings during the COVID-19 outbreak, we are currently unable to access any incoming post.

Alternative Agriculture in Europe (sixteenth-twentieth centuries)

Alternative Agriculture In Europe (Sixteenth-Twentieth Centuries), by Gérard Béaur, is published by Brepols.

The issue of long-term agricultural transformations remains a hot topic in historiography. The texts of this book intend to take this debate seriously into account by putting several models of alternative crops to facts. This book can be purchased at a discounted price of 64 Euro until 31 May. For details use the contact form (select Other for Subject).

Seventeenth-century Lancashire Restored: The Life and Work of Dr Richard Kuerden, Antiquary and Topographer, 1623-1702

Seventeenth-century Lancashire restored: the life and work of Dr Richard Kuerden, antiquary and topographer, 1623-1702, edited by Bill Shannon, is published by the Chetham Society.

Bill Shannon has celebrated the end of his term as Treasurer by publishing this fascinating study of the seventeeth-century Lancashire doctor and antiquarian, Richard Kuerden. The special launch price is £25.00.

Peasant Perspectives on the Medieval Landscape: A study of three communities, by Susan Kilby, is published by Hertfordshire University Press.

This compelling new study forms part of a new wave of scholarship on the medieval rural environment in which the focus moves beyond purely socio-economic concerns to incorporate the lived experience of peasants.
Read more on the publisher’s web site...

The Political Economy of the Common Agricultural Policy 
Coordinated Capitalism or Bureaucratic Monster?

The Political Economy of the Common Agricultural Policy Coordinated Capitalism or Bureaucratic Monster?, by Fernando Collantes, is published by Routledge.

What is the balance of the European Union’s Common Agricultural Policy more than half a century after its birth? Does it illustrate the virtues of the European model of coordinated capitalism, as opposed to US-style liberal capitalism? Or is it an incoherent set of instruments that exert diverse negative impacts and, like Frankenstein’s monster, seems to have escaped the control of its designers?
Read more on the publisher’s web site...