Alternative Agriculture: A History: From the Black Death to the Present Day

Paperback | March 15, 2000

byJoan Thirsk

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People like to believe in a past golden age of traditional English countryside, before large farms, machinery, and the destruction of hedgerows changed the landscape forever. However, that countryside may have looked both more and less familiar than we imagine. Take todays startling yellowfields of rapeseed, seemingly more suited to the landscape of Van Gogh than Constable. They were, in fact, thoroughly familiar to fieldworkers in seventeenth-century England. At the same time, some features that would have gone unremarked in the past now seem like oddities. In the fifteenthcentury, rabbit warrens were specially guarded to rear rabbits as a luxury food for rich mens tables; whilst houses had moats not only to defend them but to provide a source of fresh fish. In the 1500s we find Catherine of Aragon introducing the concept of a fresh salad to the court of Henry VIII;and in the 1600s, artichoke gardens became a fashion of the gentry in their hope of producing more male heirs. The common tomato, suspected of being poisonous in 1837, was transformed into a household vegetable by the end of the nineteenth century, thanks to cheaper glass-making methods and theresulting increase in glasshouses. In addition to these images of past lives, Joan Thirsk reveals how the forces which drive our current interest in alternative forms of agriculture a glut of meat and cereal crops, changing dietary habits, the needs of medicine have striking parallels with earlier periods in our history. She warnsus that todays decisions should not be made in a historical vacuum: we can find solutions to our current problems in the experience of people in the past.

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People like to believe in a past golden age of traditional English countryside, before large farms, machinery, and the destruction of hedgerows changed the landscape forever. However, that countryside may have looked both more and less familiar than we imagine. Take todays startling yellowfields of rapeseed, seemingly more suited to ...

Dr Thirsk, CBE, FBA, was Reader in Economic History at Oxford University from 1965-1983, and has twice been President of the British Agricultural History Society
Format:PaperbackPublished:March 15, 2000Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0198208138

ISBN - 13:9780198208136

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Table of Contents

IntroductionPART 1 THE FIRST EXPERIENCE, 1350-15001. Agriculture after the Black DeathPART II THE SECOND EXPERIENCE, 1650-17502. Entering a New Era3. Settling into a Routine4. Alternative Crops: The Successes5. Alternative Crops: The Near-Failures and FailuresPART III THE THIRD EXPERIENCE, 1879-19396. Familiar Strategies7. Diversification and Innovation8. Context and ConclusionPART IV THE FOURTH EXPERIENCE, 1980s ONWARDS9. Alternative Agriculture TodayConclusion

Editorial Reviews

`bristles with such fascinating details which challenge notions about what is traditional and what is innovative in English agriculture ... Thirsk's stimulating and often entertaining account is partly a work of history and partly a manifesto on the future of agriculture.'Clare Griffiths, Wadham College, Oxford, EHR June 1999