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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 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.

LIBRAL has not been going so long that we can’t do things for the first time. So, in this month’s additions we have added to the site the first English counties from Dudley Stamp’s The Land of Britain; our first work by Richard Jefferies, and our first modern book.

Having made the Welsh counties of The Land of Britain available, in this tranche of additions we have posted the ten English counties in the east Midlands running from Buckinghamshire to Nottinghamshire. In addition, we have scanned and published on the site the volume for the Channel Islands. Of course, our intention is to add them all but this will not be done in a day and a night: if there are any you would like to see sooner rather than later, please let us know.

General View of the month is Inverness.


[click to enlarge]

We are very pleased to have added our first modern work to LIBRAL. Chris Spencer self-published his study of the King-Wilkinson family of Slaidburn (Yorkshire, but currently lent to Lancashire) and their estate in 2018: it quickly went out of print and is now unobtainable. This is a superb study of the gentry family who came to own much of the village: not only that but they seem to have thrown nothing away for long periods and their archive (in the Lancashire Record Office) is enormous. Chris has agreed that we can mount the pdf of his book on the site, which we are only too pleased to do as to give a terrific work a life and circulation beyond print.

The History of the King-Wilkinson Family and the Slaidburn Estate

If you have a work which is out of print but which would interest a wider audience, do get in touch.

Richard Jefferies (1848-1887), journalist and novelist, is one of the most sensitive writers on the countyside of southern England. He retains a band of devotees in the Richard Jefferies Society. We intend to add all his major works to LIBRAL over time.

Amongst other additions this month we count a number of Bulletins of the Ministry of Agriculture including two additional editions of cheese-making and three on aspects of bee-keeping. We have also added some additional volumes of Agriculture.

Bee-Keeping Honey

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.

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