This new study looks at the ways in which the years surrounding the First World War shaped the lives of the rural workforce in Britain and how the patriotism unleashed by the war was used by those in power to blur class divisions and build conservative attitudes in rural communities. Using the area of Shropshire and the Marches as a focus, the book looks at farmworkers and their trade unions, the structures of agrarian economy, class divisions, local loyalties, cultural institutions and political organisations. From 1917 the growing power of the farmworkers’ unions and the rural labour movement mounted a challenge to the landed elites and sought a radical change from rural poverty. The author shows how the elites met this threat dynamically by creating a range of new village institutions, such as ploughing matches, Women’s Institutes, village halls, war memorials and the British Legion. The extraordinary growth of rural radicalism at the end of the war was diffused by popular conservatism and local patriotism. Influenced by wartime experiences, the period 1900-1930 saw a change in rural society from parochial concerns to a new sense of loyalty to county and to the English nation.
'New discoveries, based on truly original research…' Michael Foot's choice for Book of the Year 2001, The Observer Review 'There is a lot produced on farmworkers unions but so little on the immediate post-war period around 1918-1921 that this is a really useful addition.' Trade Union Badge Collectors News '… a most useful addition to the literature on agricultural communities and trade unionism…. A scholarly but absorbing book, to the considerable credit of Nick Mansfield… I recommend it to all who are interested in the history of workers' conditions and trade union struggle in the countryside.' The Landworker 'Mansfield's well-referenced study…offers a detailed insight into rural society in general, and farmworkers and their organisation in particular, at a time of great change and is a pioneering work in areas of rural culture which are often ill-recorded and are now largely beyond the recall of fresh oral record…. it will be welcomed and used by social and political historians and all those interested in the cultural life of rural communities.' Folk Life '… clear, cogent and convincing… we still need more studies like this…' EHR '… gives a valuable insight… entertaining with its many anecdotes and quotes from workers of that period.' North West labour History Journal '… opens up a whole series of questions about political culture in Britain and about the values of Englishness and rural society… Mansfield has done an excellent job…' International Review of Social History '… an interesting micro-history […] that will be of great value to a much wider audience… useful and highly informative… an excellent resource for historians on a variety of levels: as regional history, as micro-study and as a general introduction to rural life in the early twentieth century.' Labour History Review '… fine, illuminating, and very useful book.. This is a complicated and interesting book.' Agricultural History Review
Contents: Introduction; Farmworkers, rural life and England; Rural society in the Marches in the early 20th century; Agricultural trades unionism in the Marches; The Great War, recruitment and local patriotism, 1914-1915; The radical challenge, 1916-1920; Local patriotism into national consensus, 1921-1930; The Marches and Englishness; Bibliography; Index.