Centre for Rural Research Annual Review 2004 - College of Social ...

socialsciences.exeter.ac.uk

Centre for Rural Research Annual Review 2004 - College of Social ...

The ‘Modernisation’ of Agriculture in Devon during The SecondWorld War: Uncovering Alternative NarrativesMark Riley and David HarveyIntroductionAs we reach the 60 th anniversary of the end of World War 2 (WW2), publicappetite for recollections on the period continue unabated, with a profusion ofpopular publications, media reports, and heritage ‘events’, as well as nationalprojects such as the BBC’s People’s War (http://www.bbc.co.uk/dna/ww2). Inacademic terms however, Alun Howkins has recently suggested that: “the historyof rural areas during the Second World War is virtually unstudied”, pointing to afew disparate studies which concentrate on agricultural policies of the period,and suggesting that “the extent to which these rely on K.A.H. Murray’s ‘official’history published in 1955, is testimony both to the quality of Murray’ work andthe paucity of more recent published research” (Howkins, 1998, p.75). This shortreview presents preliminary findings of a research project concerned with thechanging rural landscape in the Second World War, which goes some way tofilling the void that Howkins has highlighted.Funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Board, the project, entitledLandscape Archaeology and the Community in Devon: an Oral HistoryApproach, was concerned with landscape and agricultural changes in the war andimmediate post-war period. The main emphasis of the project was to investigatethe possibilities of an oral history approach to the fields of landscapearchaeology and landscape history. While there have been a number of oralhistory projects relating to WW2, these have proceeded primarily as communitybased-activities, with the main intention being the recording of recollections perse (those for example funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund), with few attempts tointertwine these within wider social analysis or academic enquiry. Whereacademics have engaged with oral histories of WW2, these have tended to focuson more recently popularised groups such as the Women’s Land Army, withlittle attention paid to the farmers who carried out many of the changes seenduring the war. This paper considers this group in the context of Devon andpresents the findings from oral history interviews with 31 respondents who wereengaged in farming or related activities during the war.State Surveillance and the Development of the ‘National Farm’The commencement of war resulted in the County War Agricultural ExecutiveCommittees (CWAECs) - commonly referred to as the ‘War Ags’ - being givenunprecedented powers under defence regulations in order to increase foodproduction. Such powers included the freedom to take control of land, inspect allagricultural land and direct its cultivation, and, in more extreme cases,requisition holdings which they felt were not being farmed to their maximumpotential. The main duty of the War Ags was to encourage ‘good’ agricultural61

More magazines by this user
Similar magazines