In the years before the Second World War agriculture in most European states was carried out on peasant or small family farms using technologies that relied mainly on organic inputs and local knowledge and skills, supplying products into a market that was partly local or national, partly international. The war applied a profound shock to this system. In some countries farms became battlefields, causing the extensive destruction of buildings, crops and livestock. In others, farmers had to respond to calls from the state for increased production to cope with the effects of wartime disruption of international trade. By the end of the war food was rationed when it was obtainable at all. Only fifteen years later the erstwhile enemies were planning ways of bringing about a single agricultural market across much of continental western Europe, as farmers mechanised, motorized, shed labour, invested capital, and adopted new technologies to increase output. This volume brings together scholars working on this period of dramatic technical, commercial and political change in agriculture, from the end of the Second World War to the emergence of the Common Agricultural Policy in the early 1960s. Their work is structured around four themes: the changes in the international political order within which agriculture operated; the emergence of a range of different market regulation schemes that preceded the CAP; changes in technology and the extent to which they were promoted by state policy; and the impact of these political and technical changes on rural societies in western Europe.
Part One: International Politics Part Two: Market Regulation and the Motives Behind It Part Three: Technical Change Part Four: Rural Society and Structural Policy
We like to forget that agriculture is one of the core human activities. In historic societies most people lived in the countryside: a high, if falling proportion of the population were engaged in the production and processing of foodstuffs. The possession of land was a key form of wealth: it brought not only income from tenants but prestige, access to a rural lifestyle and often political power. Nor could government ever be disinterested in the countryside, whether to maintain urban food supply, as a source of taxation, or to maintain social peace. Increasingly it managed every aspect of the countryside. Agriculture itself and the social relations within the countryside were in constant flux as farmers reacted to new or changing opportunities, and landlords sought to maintain or increase their incomes. Moreover, urban attitudes to - and representation of - the landscape and its inhabitants were constantly shifting.
These questions of competition and change, production, power and perception are the primary themes of the series. It looks at change and competition in the countryside: social relations within it and between urban and rural societies. The series offers a forum for the publication of the best work on all of these issues, straddling the economic, social and cultural, concentrating on the rural history of Britain and Ireland, Europe and its colonial empires, and North America over the past millennium.