Transforming the Countryside: The Electrification of Rural Britain, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Transforming the Countryside

The Electrification of Rural Britain, 1st Edition

Edited by Paul Brassley, Jeremy Burchardt, Karen Sayer


252 pages | 16 B/W Illus.

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pub: 2016-12-05
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It is now almost impossible to conceive of life in western Europe, either in the towns or the countryside, without a reliable mains electricity supply. By 1938, two-thirds of rural dwellings had been connected to a centrally generated supply, but the majority of farms in Britain were not linked to the mains until sometime between 1950 and 1970. Given the significance of electricity for modern life, the difficulties of supplying it to isolated communities, and the parallels with current discussions over the provision of high-speed broadband connections, it is surprising that until now there has been little academic discussion of this vast and protracted undertaking. This book fills that gap. It is divided into three parts. The first, on the progress of electrification, explores the timing and extent of electrification in rural England, Wales and Scotland; the second examines the effects of electrification on rural life and the rural landscape; and the third makes comparisons over space and time, looking at electrification in Canada and Sweden and comparing electrification with the current problems of rural broadband.

Table of Contents

1. Introduction

[Paul Brassley, Jeremy Burchardt and Karen Sayer]

Part I: The Progress of Electrification

2. The Electrification of the Countryside: The Interests of Electrical Enterprises and the

Rural Population in England, 1888-1939

[Karl Ditt]

3. Power to the People: Power Stations and the National Grid

[John Sheail]

4. Lighting the Landscape: Rural Electrification in Wales

[Richard Moore-Colyer]

5. The Electrification of Highland Scotland

[David Fleetwood]

6. Electrifying Farms in England

[Paul Brassley]

Part II: The Effects of Electrification

7. Electrification and its Alternatives in the Farmer’s and Labourer’s Home

[Karen Sayer]

8. Pylons and Frozen Peas: The Women’s Institute Goes Electric

[Rosemary Shirley]

Part III: Comparisons over Space and Time

9. Rural Electrification in Sweden: A Comparison

[Carin Martiin]

10. People, Place and Power: Rural Electrification in Canada, 1890-1950

[Ruth W. Sandwell]

11. Rural Broadband: A 21st-Century Comparison with Electrification

[Martyn Warren]

12. Conclusion: Electricity, Rurality and Modernity

[Paul Brassley, Jeremy Burchardt and Karen Sayer]

About the Editors

Paul Brassley is a Visiting Research Fellow in the Land, Environment, Economics and Policy Institute, University of Exeter.

Jeremy Burchardt is Associate Professor in the Department of History, University of Reading.

Karen Sayer is Professor of Social and Cultural History, Leeds Trinity University.

About the Series

Rural Worlds

Economic, Social and Cultural Histories of Agricultures and Rural Societies

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.

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
HISTORY / General