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Archived news items

New news items are on the Home page. Old news items (excluding notices of forthcoming events) are archived here in text form only. No guarantee is made that external links still work.


A. D. M. Phillips

The Society is sad to report the death of A. D. M (Tony) Phillips earlier this month. Tony spent his entire career at the University of Keele, arriving there direct from postgraduate work at UCL in 1968. He retired in 2010. His work on nineteenth-century improvement and investment in agriculture will be well known to many members of the Society including his book The underdraining of farmland in England during the nineteenth century (1989)

Tony was a good servant of the Society and had its interests at heart. He served on the Executive Committee from 1974 and acted as its chairman from 1989 to 1992. He then stepped sideways to be Editor of Agricultural History Review from 1993 to 1998. He will be remembered as excellent company at conferences and a man who conducted business with good grace and humour.

As of 20 November: we have been told that the funeral has been postponed – to be informed when a date has been fixed, please contact

New editor for Rural History Today

Rural History Today, our bi-annual magazine, has a new editor, Dr Rebecca Ford.

Rebecca is an historical / cultural geographer. She is keen to widen the content of Rural History Today and expand its range of contributors, so that it reflects the ‘Today’ in the publication’s title as much as the ‘History’. Rebecca is looking forward to receiving features on scholarly research, historical perspectives on contemporary rural life, interviews, exhibitions, book reviews and conference reports.

The Society is grateful to Susanna Wade Martins for editing the periodical for many years.

F. M. L. Thompson

It is with great sadness that the Society announces the death of Professor F. M. L. (Michael) Thompson on 23 August at the age of 92. The Society offers its condolences to his widow, Anne and to his family. Read about Michael’s contribution to Agricultural History and to the Society here.


We are saddened to hear of the death of David Hey, former President of the BAHS, on 14 February at his home in Derbyshire. See his obituary in The Guardian.


The Society is saddened to hear of the death of Rex Russell, Lincolnshire local historian, at the age of 98. The Guardian has an obituary.


Professor of Social and Cultural History awarded MERL fellowship to explore rat control in British agriculture
Professor Karen Sayer (left) has received this year’s Gwyn E. Jones Museum of English Rural Life (MERL) fellowship for her project on ‘Rural Boundaries: the control of rats and mice in British agriculture c.1800-2001’.

Farmers, consumers, and innovators: the world of Joan Thirsk celebrated
BAHS members were prominent among the hundred or so delegates who assembled in Leicester on 20 September 2014 for a conference to honour the academic achievements of Joan Thirsk. Read more...

New appointment for editor of Agricultural History Review
The editor of Agricultural History Review, Richard Hoyle, has been appointed Director and General Editor of Victoria County History. Read more...


Many members of the Society will be saddened to hear of the death of Professor Richard Britnell before Christmas. He was a good friend to many of us as well as to the Society. As Professor Phillipp Schofield observed, he was ‘wholly generous and supportive as well as a scholar held in the highest regard’. Britnell's early work was on Colchester in Essex. The work for which he is best-known, on the proliferation of markets and the evidence they provided for rural commercialisation, was drawn together in his influential book, entitled The Commercialisation of English Society, 1000-1500 (1992). An obituary by Professor Chris Dyer has appeared in the Guardian.

The family and many friends, colleagues and neighbours of Joan Thirsk (d. October 2013) attended a meeting to celebrate her life and work on Saturday 11 January 2014 at the Senate House, University of London. Through a c.1990 interview preserved on DVD by the IHR, the ‘friends of Joan’ were able to hear Joan herself speak on many topics, ranging from the beginnings of the BAHS itself and of the Cambridge Agrarian History, through Joan's approach to bringing up a family and pursuing an active academic life, and her support for women-only colleges (‘for some, not necessarily all’). Many then spoke eloquently and movingly of their memories of this remarkable woman.

The meeting was sponsored by the BAHS, British Association for Local History, Economic History Society, Kent Archaeological Society, The Medieval Settlement Research Group, St Hilda’s College Oxford, The History Faculty of the University of Oxford, and Past and Present.

Read Liz Griffiths’ article in Rural History Today.

Tawney’s agrarian problem revisited

Edited by the chair of the BAHS executive committee, Jane Whittle, with contributions from many other members of the Society, this book was the outcome of a day conference held in 2012, the centenary of the publication of R. H. Tawney’s The agrarian problem in the sixteenth century. Order the book online from Boydell and Brewer, quoting 13293 at the checkout for a special offer price of £13.49. Offer ends 30 June 2014.

Publication of The Farmer in England, 1650-1980

Ashgate has announced the publication of The Farmer in England, 1650–1980, edited by Richard W. Hoyle (editor of the Agricultural History Review). All of the authors who contributed chapters to the book are also members of the BAHS and on Sunday 27 October, some of them gathered together to present a copy of the book to its dedicatee, Ted Collins, former Professor of Rural History at the University of Reading.

Anybody who buys this book through the Ashgate Web site will get a 10% discount. For a 20% discount, if you are a member of the BAHS, please send an email to the BAHS Webweaver and we will send you a discount code.


The chair of our executive committee, Dr Jane Whittle of Exeter University has been appointed professor, and Dr Jonathan Healey has been named by the BBC as one of Radio 3’s New Generation Thinkers 2012. Our congratulations go to both of them.

Wartime Farm (2012)

A new 8-part BBC 2 series, Wartime Farm, starts on Thursday 6 September at 8pm. Many BAHS members were involved in the making of this programme: John Martin was the historical consultant, and Nicola Verdon, Karen Sayer, and Brian Short appear in various episodes.

Read more about the wartime farm in The front line of freedom: British farming in the Second World War edited by Brian Short, Charles Watkins and John Martin, and published by the BAHS.

Books Published (2012)

Christopher Dyer has published a new book. A Country Merchant, 1495-1520 explores the wool trade of the early 16th century in the Cotswolds, centred around the activities of the merchant John Heritage.

And Jennifer Holt has published the first two volumes of The Diary of Thomas Fenwick Esq. of Burrow Hall, Lancashire and Nunriding, Northumberland, 1774-1794. The two volumes cover the years 1774 to 1789. A further two volumes will appear later this year.

Rural Worlds

Rural Worlds: Economic, Social and Cultural Histories of Agricultures and Rural Societies is a new series from Ashgate Publishing, edited by Richard W. Hoyle, University of Reading, UK. The first title in the series, due to be published in November 2013, will be The Farmer in England, 1650-1950, also edited by Richard W. Hoyle. Read more about the series here.

Prize Essay Competition (2012)

The Society and Agricultural History Review are delighted to announce the winners of the Agricultural History Review’s sixtieth anniversary essay competition. The judges have awarded the first prize to Dr Johann P. Custodis (LSE) for his essay on ‘Employing the enemy: the contribution of German and Italian POW workers to British agriculture during and after the Second World War’. The two second prizes have been awarded to Dr Jonathan Healey (St Catherine’s College Oxford) for his essay on ‘The political culture of the English Commons, c.1550-1650’ and Rebecca Woods (MIT) for her essay on ‘Breed, culture and economy: The Australasian frozen mutton trade, 1880-1910’.

The winning essays will appear in Volume 60 part two of the Review, to be published in November 2012. Dr Custodis presented his paper at the Spring Conference.

We offer our thanks to all those who submitted essays. They reflected a great diversity of interests and approaches and give further evidence, should any be needed, of the vitality of our subject. We hope that a number of the essays not awarded prizes will, in time, also appear in the Review.

News about forthcoming and past events.