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Feeding the war effort: agricultural experiences in First World War Devon, 1914–17

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Studies of British agriculture in the First World War have argued that the labour crisis was not as severe as contemporaries believed, suggesting instead that replacement labour and greater access to farm machinery helped to offset the loss of agricultural labourers to the military. However, labour reports for Devon show a shortage of both men and horses on the land by late 1915 and the County War Agricultural Committee expressed concern that the continued removal of men from the land was in conflict with the need to increase home grown food. Central to the issue was the farmers' belief that operating a farm required a set number of men and horses. Through district boards and the Devon Farmers' Union, local farmers negotiated manpower demands by refusing to cooperate with government agricultural directives until manpower and price guarantees could be assured. As such, this article argues that crucial changes to agriculture took place in 1916 when the pressing labour shortage forced the government to reconsider its agricultural policies.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2010-06-01

More about this publication?
  • Agricultural History Review is the leading journal for the publication of original research in all aspects of agricultural and rural history. First published in 1952, the Review reflects the diversity of approaches which are possible in rural history. Its editors welcome submissions in any aspect of the history of agriculture, rural society and rural economy over the past millennium. Whilst it is not concerned with current policy debates, it is interested in considering discussions of the historical dimensions of current problems in rural society and food supply. The Review is especially strong in British rural history, but actively seeks submissions in European and American rural history and has no bar on submissions concerning the remainder of the world. It is also the journal of record for book reviews in the discipline.

    Agricultural History Review has an international editorial board. The current editors are Professor R. W. Hoyle, University of Reading, UK who is responsible for articles, and Professor H. R. French, University of Exeter who serves as editor for book reviews. The Review is fully peer-refereed.

    Agricultural History Review is published by the British Agricultural History Society from whom personal subscriptions may be obtained.
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