From the Byre to the Bacteriologist: The Milk Supply of an Industrial City
Author: Burnett, John
Source: Folk Life - Journal of Ethnological Studies, Volume 40, 2001-2002 , pp. 39-53(15)
Publisher: Maney Publishing
Abstract:This essay has two purposes. First, it outlines the development of the milk supply of the city of Glasgow, concentrating on the period between 1820 and 1960, and emphasising the problems of producing a milk supply that was free from disease. Second, it explores some aspects of the idea that life has become more (and sometimes less) complex over the last two centuries. One way of doing this would be to consider society as a whole, and ask whether the number of different roles performed by individuals has increased; whether there are more corporate bodies, laws, and arms of government; and whether technology is more complex. Broadly speaking, the answer to these questions would be affirmative. This would ignore, however, the fact that life in an apparently simpler society — say Scotland in the middle of the eighteenth century — contained different kinds of complexity. Society operates according to all sorts of rules of which only a limited proportion is ever written down. A minister wrote in the 1790S, ‘To the illiterate of the preceding age, these rules were communicated by the proverb, the allegory, the fret, and the song’. There was thus a collective, and highly conservative, view of how to take practical decisions. What scope was there to make decisions in other times and places? Rather than examining society, or a part of it, the approach here will be to look at one role, that of a dairy farmer in the west of Scotland, and factors which affected it. This role became increasingly complex in the nineteenth century, growing simpler again after 1930.
Document Type: Research Article
Publication date: 2001-01-01