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First edition 1912
Second edition 1917
Third edition 1922
Fourth edition 1927
Fifth edition 1936 (edited by Sir A. D. Hall)
WHEN Lord Ernle and Messrs. Longmans did me the honour of asking me to prepare a new edition of English Farming, Past and Present I agreed with some trepidation. I knew that I had neither the desire nor the knowledge to alter what Lord Ernle had written of "the past." But what in 1912 he wrote of "the present" has since taken on a different colour, and the post-war period has witnessed revolutionary changes in the practices of agriculture and in the attitude of the State, of which the student of agriculture might well desire some summary account.
Except for an occasional footnote I have, therefore, left untouched Lord Ernle's text as far as Chapter XVI, but to that chapter I have added a section bringing the history of tithe down to the present time. I have left the earlier part of Chapter XVIII as Lord Ernle wrote it, but have substituted for the latter part a new section dealing with the practice of agriculture in the period from the beginning of the century to the outbreak of the war in 1914. Lord Ernle had touched upon education and research, but their growth has been so rapid that I have treated both the pre-war and the later period in one new chapter. Lord Ernle's account of the "War and State Control" remains; it is his own record of actions for which he bore so large a responsibility. From that point I have taken up the tale with two chapters, one dealing with the more important items of legislation affecting agriculture, and a second discussing the changes in the methods of farming that have seemed to me to be significant in this latter period. As in these chapters I have perforce had to deal with matters of opinion, I can only express beforehand my regrets for such errors of omission or commission as I must have made. I have many people to thank for their assistance in providing information, notably Mr. C. S. Orwin of Oxford and Dr. V. E. Wilkins, and several of my old colleagues in the Ministry.
Sequels are notoriously colourless and unsatisfactory and I cannot hope to have provided an exception. But it is necessary that Lord Ernie's classic should be furnished with the data concerning the more recent events, and I take pride in being associated with a book from which I and my contemporaries have learned to look upon English agriculture as something continuously growing, whose present status and future development cannot be understood without an appreciation of its roots in the past.
English Farming Past and Present is based on an article which appeared in the Quarterly Review for 1885. The article was subsequently expanded into a book, published in 1888 by Messrs. Longmans under the title of The Pioneers and Progress of English Farming.
The book has been out of print for twenty years. Written with the confidence of comparative youth and inexperience, it expressed as certainties many opinions which might now be modified, if not withdrawn. But its motives were two convictions, which time has rather strengthened than weakened. One was, that the small number of persons who owned agricultural land might some day make England the forcing-bed of schemes for land-nationalisation, which countries, where the ownership of the soil rested on a more democratic basis, repudiated as destructive of all forms of private property. The other was, that a considerable increase in the number of peasant ownerships, in suitable hands, on suitable land, and in suitable localities, was socially, economically, and agriculturally advantageous.
Since 1888, the whole field of economic history has been so carefully and skilfully cultivated, that another work on a branch of the subject might appear superfluous. But there still seemed to be room for a consecutive history of English agriculture, written from a practical point of view, and tracing the influence of the progress of the industry on the social conditions of those engaged in its pursuit. Great economic changes have resulted from small alterations in the details of manufacturing processes. Similar changes may often be explained by some little-noticed alterations in farming practice. The introduction of the field-cultivation of turnips, for example, was as truly the parent of a social revolution as the introduction of textile machinery. The main object of The Pioneers and Progress of English Farming, and, in greater detail, of English Farming Past and Present, is to suggest that advances in agricultural skill, the adoption of new methods, the application of new resources, the invention of new implements, have been, under the pressure of national necessities, powerful instruments in breaking up older forms of rural society, and in moulding them into their present shape.
Students of economic and social questions--and at the present day most people are interested in these subjects--will decide whether the influence of these simple and natural causes has been greater or less than is suggested. Even those who consider that their importance is exaggerated, may find in the record of their progress a useful commentary on the political explanations which they themselves prefer to adopt. The book may still serve another purpose. It touches rural life at many different points and at many different stages. Dwellers in the country are surrounded by traces of older conditions of society. They may perhaps find, through English Farming Past and Present, a new interest in piecing together the fragments of an agricultural past, and in reconstructing, as in one of the fashionable occupations of the day, a picture of the Middle Ages or of the eighteenth century in the midst of their own familiar surroundings.
Now that the book is in print and on the eve of publication, I feel more acutely than ever the disadvantages under which it has been prepared. English Farming Past anal Present is the by-product of a life occupied in other pursuits than those of literature. It has been impossible to work upon it for any continuous period of time. Written in odd half-hours, it has been often laid aside for weeks and even months. My thanks are therefore due, in more abundant measure, to Professor Ashley, Sir Ernest Clarke, and Mr. H. Trustram Eve, who have kindly read the proof-sheets and helped me with corrections, and above all to Mr. G. H. Holden, who has also verified the references and prepared the Index.
Ernle's work, although when viewed as academically-correct history, is "dated," remains of enormous interest to the general reader--for its wisdom and the delightful writing style. In this sense, Ernle was fully the equal of Edward Gibbon. Left out of this online edition were three chapters at the end of the book written for the Fifth Edition by A.D. Hall and also left out were Ernle's appendices, mainly consisting of statistcal tables. Had I believed it necessary for a fair presentation of this book to render these statistics, the task might have been far too daunting and the text itself probably would not have been attempted at this point in the development of the Soil and Health Library. The book had numerous footnotes; most of those pointing directly to the source of an interesting quotation have been retained, although sometimes liberties have been taken with presentation of them by including the data in the text instead of as "footnotes" because there are no "pages" in the level of html formatting used at at present.Thise footnotes of a more scholarly nature, or probably too digressive to interest the general reader, have been discarded from this online version.
Virgin soils: traces of sites of early villages: "wild field-grass" husbandry; the permanent division of pasture from tillage; manors and trade-guilds; origin of manors; the thirteenth century manor and village; divisions of land according to differences of tenure; villages isolated and self-sufficing; importance of labour-rents in the economy of a manor; the cultivation of the demesne; the crops grown; the live-stock; miscellaneous produce; the manorial courts : the social grades among the villagers; the system of open field farming; the arable land; the meadows; the hams; the pasture commons; the prevalence and permanence of the open-field system; the domestic industries of the village.
Great landlords as farmers: horrors of winter scarcity: gradual decay of the manorial system and the increased struggle for life: aspects of the change common rights over cultivated and uncultivated land: tendency towards separate occupation: substitution of labour-rents for money-rents; the Black Death; Labour legislation, and its effect; Manor of Castle Combe and Berkeley Estates; new relations of landlords and tenants substituted for old relations of feudal lords and dependents; tenant-farmers and free labourers ; leases and larger farms; increase of separate occupations: William Paston and Hugh Latimer; wage-earning labourers; voluntary surrender of holdings; freedom of movement and of contract.
The passing of the Middle Ages: enclosures in the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries compared; the commercial impulse and its results; conversion of tillage to pasture: enclosures and depopulation: legislation against enclosures; literary attack on enclosures; the practical defence of enclosures: larger farms in separate occupation: loss of employment: enclosures equitably arranged, or enforced by tyranny; legal powers of landowners; open-field farmers not the chief sufferers by enclosures ; scarcity of employment and rise in prices; the new problem of poverty : the ranks of vagrants; the Elizabethan fraternity of vagabonds.
Paternal despotism: restoration of the purity of the coinage; a definite commercial policy: revival of the wool trade: new era of prosperity among landed gentry and occupiers of land: a time of adversity for small landowners and wage-earning labourers: Statute of Apprentices; hiring fairs; growth of agricultural literature: Fitzherbert and Tusser: their picture of Tudor farming: defects of the open-field system: experience of the value of enclosures; improvement in farming: Barnaby Googe; Sir Hugh Plat: progress in the art of gardening.
Promise of agricultural progress checked by the Civil War: agricultural writers and their suggestions: Sir Richard Weston on turnips and clover: conservatism of English farmers; their dislike to book-farming not unreasonable; unexhausted improvements discussed; Walter Blith on drainage: attempts to drain the fens in the eastern counties; the resistance of the fenmen: new views on commons: Winstanley's claims: enclosures advocated as a step towards agricultural improvement.
Worlidge's Systema Agriculturae (1669) : improvements suggested by agricultural writers; tyranny of custom; contempt for book-farming; slow progress in farming skill; general standard low; horses, cattle, sheep, and pigs in the seventeenth century; want of leaders; growing influence of landowners; the finance of the Restoration, and the abolition of military tenures; legislation to promote agriculture; Gregory King on the State and Condition of England and Wales in 1696: the distribution of population and wealth.
Agricultural progress in the eighteenth century.; enclosures necessary to advance; advocates and opponents of the enclosing movement; area of uncultivated land and of land cultivated in open-fields; defects of the open-field system as a method of farming; pasture commons as adjuncts to open-field holdings; the necessary lead in agricultural progress given by large landowners and large farmers; procedure in enclosures by Act of Parliament: varying dates at which districts have been enclosed : influence of soil and climate in breaking up or maintaining the open-field system: the East Midland and North Eastern group of counties: improved methods and increased resources of farming; Jethro Tull the "greatest individual improver"; Lord Townshend's influence on Norfolk husbandry.
Necessity for improving the live-stock of the country; sheep valued for their wool, cattle for power of draught or yield of milk; beef and mutton the growing need: Robert Bakewell the agricultural opportunist; his experiments with the Black Horse, the Leicester Longhorns, and the New Leicesters; rapid progress of stock-breeding: sacrifice of wool to mutton.
The counties distinguished for the best farming: Hertfordshire, Essex, Suffolk, Norfolk, Leicestershire: the low general standard; Arthur Young; his crusade against bad farming, and the hindrances to progress; waste land; the "Goths and Vandals" of open-field farmers: want of capital and education; insecurity of tenure; prejudices and traditional practices; impassable roads; rapid developments of manufacture demands a change of agricultural front: Young's advocacy of capitalist landlords and large tenant-farmers.
Agricultural enthusiasm at the close of the eighteenth century; high prices of agricultural produce; the causes of the advance; increased demand and cessation of foreign supplies; the state of the currency; rapid advance of agriculture on the new lines of capitalist farming; impulse given to enclosing movement and the introduction of improved practices; Davy's Lectures on Agricultural Chemistry; the work of large landlords: Coke of Norfolk.
Condition of open-field arable land and pasture commons as described by the Reporters to the Board of Agriculture, 1793-1815; (1) The North and North-Western District; (2) West Midland and South-Western District; (3) South-Eastern and Midland District; (4) Eastern and North-Eastern District (5) the Fens; the cumulative effect of the evidence; procedure under private Enclosure Acts; its defects and cost; the General enclosure Act of 1801; the Enclosure Commissioners; the new Board of Agriculture.
Difficulty in deciding on the good or bad influence of the Corn Laws; restrictions on home as well as on foreign trade in corn; gradual abandonment of the attempt to secure just prices by legislation; means adopted to steady prices; prohibition both of exports and imports: the bounty on home-grown corn; the system established in 1670 and 1689 lasts till 1815 ; its general effect; influence of seasons from 1689 to 1764, and from 1765 to 1815 ; difficulty of obtaining foreign supplies during the Napoleonic wars; practical monopoly in the home market: small margin of home supply owing to growth of population; exaggerated effect on prices of good or bad harvests; protection after 1815; demand by agriculturists for fair profits; changed conditions of supply; repeal of the Corn Laws, 1846.
Difficulties of communication; influence of natural waterways on inland trade; artificial waterways and canal construction; Roman roads; mediaeval road-repair: roads in Tudor times; introduction of turnpikes at the Restoration; condition of eighteenth century roads; failure of statutory labour; rival theories of Telford and McAdam; extinction of turnpike trusts; highway rates; main roads.
Effect of enclosures on the rural population; no necessary reduction in the number of small owners, but rather an increase; consolidation of farms, either by purchase from small owners, or by throwing tenancies together; the strict letter of the law; small occupiers become landless labourers; depopulation of villages when tillage was abandoned for pasture; scarcity of employment in open-field villages; the literary controversy; the material injury inflicted upon the rural poor by the loss of the commons; no possible equivalent in cash-value: the moral injury; the simultaneous decay of domestic industries; the rapid rise after 1790 in the price of provisions; a substantial advance in agricultural wages.
War taxation: peace and beggary; slow recovery of agriculture; the harvest of 1813; reality and extent of distress; the fall of prices; bankruptcies of tenant-farmers; period of acute depression, 1814-36; ruin of small owners; misery of agricultural labourers; reduction in wages and scarcity of employment; allowances from the rates; general pauperisation: the new Poor Law, 1834, and its administration.
The incidence of tithes under the old law; the historical origin of tithes; a freewill offering; a customary payment; the appeal to conscience; ecclesiastical penalties for non-payment; a legal liability: tithes as parochial endowments; the Reformation; the collection of tithes in kind unpopular and expensive to tithe-owners; substituted forms of payment; the Tithe Commutation Act of 1836; its object and machinery; effect of war prices upon tithe rent charge; stabilisation in 1918; further change in 1925 with provision for eventual extinction of tithe; rating of tithe; redemption of tithe rent charges; renewed agitation against tithe.
Condition of agriculture in 1837; current explanation of the distress; preparation for a new start in farming; legislative changes; development of a railway system; live-stock in 1837; the general level of farming; foundation of the Royal Agricultural Society; notable improvements, 1837-74; extension of drainage; purchase of feeding stuffs; discovery of artificial fertilisers; mechanical improvements and inventions; Repeal of the Corn Laws; the golden age from 1853 to the end of 1863; rapid progress in the "Fifties"; pedigree mania in stock-breeding.
Industrial crisis; special difficulties of farmers; the weather and foreign competition; Richmond Commission, 1879-82; further depression touching bottom in l896; Royal Commission of 1893; changeover from arable to grass farming; migration of dairy farmers from north and west; growth of milk production; cheapening of cultivation; returning prosperity in the new century.
Individualism in English farming; "up Horn, down Corn"; effect of the nation's commercial policy; the War 1914-18; destruction of shipping; the Milner Committee (1916); transport and food difficulties, 1917-18; necessity for increased production at home; unfavourable prospects, Dec. 1916; position ompared with that of Napoleonic Wars; Government control of the industry; its aims and organisation; Corn Production Act, 1917; results of food campaign; lessons of State control.
The growth of organisation; the National Farmers' Union; the two Workers' Trade Unions; the Central Landowners' Association; the Agriculture Act and the repeal of the Corn Production Acts; Agricultural Wages Boards; the relief of Agricultural Rates; the Marketing Acts. NOT INCLUDED.
The agitation for access to the land; the Small Holdings Act of 1908 and its administration by the County Councils; Settlement of ex-service men, 1919-21; further assistance to County Councils for small holdings in 1926; financial results of statutory small holdings; the continued decline in the number of mall farms; failure to check the drift from the land. NOT INCLUDED.
The Technical Instruction Act of 1890 and the foundation of the Colleges of Agriculture; the Development Fund Act of 1909; the Farm Institute Scheme and County organisers; allocation of increased funds after the War; setting up of Research Institutes from the Development Fund; organisation by subjects of Institutes as a rule under University control; further allocations to research on the repeal of the Corn Production Act; review of existing Institutes. NOT INCLUDED.
The growth of tractor working; the combines and mechanised cereal farms; replacement of root crops by temporary leys, of folding sheep by grass sheep; intensive manuring and grazing; dried grass; new varieties of crops; the introduction of sugar beet; market gardening and fruit growing; the expansion of milk production; milk recording; the Hozier system of cow keeping; graded milk; foot and mouth disease; the bacon pig; expansion of the poultry industry. NOT INCLUDED.