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Monday 26 April (2pm)
Ploughing a literary furrow: popular writing about twentieth century English agriculture
Dr Paul Brassley, ‘The farm in the library: writing about agriculture in the twentieth century’
This paper argues that the way in which authors of both fiction and non-fiction wrote about agriculture changed around the years of the Second World War. For about fifty years from the beginning of the century writing about rural life in general was a popular genre, to the extent that many have argued that the cultural significance of the countryside far outweighed its economic importance. However, much of this material dealt with farming only as a setting for stories about family life. Those works that dealt seriously with farming tended to emphasise its problems, and mostly described a technology that had changed little since the nineteenth century. During and after the Second World War farming memoirs in particular became far more celebratory of technical change, until the final decade of the century when a reaction appeared. The paper identifies some of the more significant writers and explores the reasons for the changes in the genre.
Dr Paul Brassley is an Honorary University Fellow in the Centre for Rural Policy Research at the University of Exeter, and currently President of the BAHS. Among his recent books are (with Richard Soffe) Agriculture: a Very Short Introduction (Oxford University Press) and (edited with Jeremy Burchardt and Karen Sayer) Transforming the Countryside: the Electrification of Rural Britain (Routledge).
Dr Peter Dewey, ‘From farming failure to literary celebrity: the career of A. G. Street (1892-1966)’
A. G. Street, a south Wiltshire tenant farmer, is still remembered mainly for his first book, written at the age of 40, the best-selling Farmer’s Glory (1932), which is still in print. He admitted that this book had saved him from bankruptcy. Thereafter he became a national celebrity, pursuing the triple careers of farmer, writer and broadcaster until his death in 1966. This paper draws attention to his farming and his finances, and emphasises his most signal achievement, which was to make the urban public aware of the trials, tribulations, and joys, of farming and the life of the countryside.
Dr Peter Dewey began his career as a research student at Reading under Ted Collins. His academic career began and ended at Royal Holloway (1974-2002). His early work concentrated on British farming in WW1 but he subsequently developed interests in and published widely on the agricultural engineering industry.

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