British Agricultural History Society
Richard Cavendish finds plenty to chew the cud on, courtesy of the BAHS
Nothing is more conducive to pessimism, gloom and outright despair than the regular practice of agriculture. At a recent conference of the British Agricultural History Society (BAHS) it was sepulchrally remarked that, the way things are going, in ten years' time there may be nothing left of British agriculture except its history. Fortunately, the subject seems to be in good heart. The Society's membership, at about 750, is lower than it was a few years ago, but the number of research students busy ploughing the field and scattering is rising again after dipping in the 1980s.
BAHS is forty years old this month. Formally inaugurated at Reading University in April 1953, it was founded to encourage the study of the history of agriculture and the countryside. The annual subscription in those far-off days was a gentlemanly one guinea. This was at a time when a profound change had overtaken the British countryside. The mechanisation of agriculture, begun long before and spear-headed by the tractor, had gained a formidable momentum during the Second World War, when every scrap of land was used to grow the embattled nation's food at home.