In pre-industrial societies, in which the majority of the population lived directly off the land, few issues were more important than the maintenance of soil fertility. Without access to biodegradable wastes from production processes or to synthetic agrochemicals, early farmers continuously developed strategies aimed at adding nutritional value to their fields using locally available natural materials. Manure really mattered, its collection/creation, storage, and spreading becoming major preoccupations for all agriculturalists no matter what environment they worked or at what period. This book brings together the work of a group of international scholars working on social, cultural, and economic issues relating to past manure and manuring. Contributors use textual, linguistic, archaeological, scientific and ethnographic evidence as the basis for their analyses. The scope of the papers is temporally and geographically broad; they span the Neolithic through to the modern period and cover studies from the Middle East, Britain and Atlantic Europe, and India. Together they allow us to explore the signatures that manure and manuring have left behind, and the vast range of attitudes that have surrounded both substance and activity in the past and present.
'This is a topic that richly deserves detailed consideration of this sort since it is relevant to all agrarian regimens, and is a rich subject for comparative work. As the authors show, unlike many aspects of agrarian history manuring practices leave archaeological, documentary, and literary evidence. It will be a valuable source of reference, as well as a stimulus to archaeologists and historians to think more deeply about this vital topic.' Richard Britnell, University of Durham, UK '… Manure Matters offers important starting points to further discussion and to direct future research.' Bryn Mawr Classical Review '… I found parts of this collection of academic essays by different authors absolutely fascinating - and even a reader without my special interest would, I think, also do so… you mightn't think a book about the history of manure is to your taste - but you might be surprised if you have an interest in social history.' Blogcritics '… it is extremely useful to have such a range of topics from several academic disciplines within a single volume. […] Manure Matters serves to remind us that manuring sits at the heart of sustainable agriculture and that archaeology provides an ideal long-term evidence base for such investigations.' Antiquity '… Richard Jones is to be congratulated on making a compelling case for the fertility of this field.' Medieval Settlement Research