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Title: A critical analysis of agricultural improvement as a concept and practice in the context of Cumbria, 1800-1920 : a study of key people, key institutions, the formalisation of agricultural education, different sectors and parts of the area
Author: Humphries, Andrew Brian
ISNI:       0000 0004 2724 737X
Awarding Body: Lancaster University
Current Institution: Lancaster University
Date of Award: 2010
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'Improvement' has been the focus in extensive studies of agricultural change. The term has been frequently used to emphasise productivity and efficiency. In the early decades of this study period 1800-1920, the contributory processes were portrayed as strongly reflecting the influence of landowners of high status. From the mid-nineteenth century, changes were progressively effected by market conditions, migration from the countryside and the application of science, technology and innovative husbandry. The more specialised and market orientated systems that evolved, created a need for new skills in farmers and workers to successfully apply improvements in practice. Knowledge, understanding, the capacity to make informed decisions, and the ability to interact with a new order of professionals, were necessary for successful adjustment. The development of a more responsive and accessible approach to education was crucial to competitiveness in a period of specialisation in farming systems and the greater globalisation of trade. This research is focussed on Cumbria as a case study, set in the context of Northern England, subject to wider national and international influences. Key European states and the New World provide a wider setting for comparison and interaction. Cumbria as a relatively remote pastoral area was perceived by some observers as an unlikely setting for leadership in improved agriculture. Paradoxically at the end of the study period, its high reputation for progressive livestock husbandry and breeding suggests that improvement had been significant. The study argues that improvement is more complex than the paternalistic development of productivity. Less emphasis has been afforded by scholars to the complex processes and contributions of education, extension and capacity building to successful adjustment. This thesis proposes that local leadership linked to a network or 'invisible college,' has incrementally over the study period built the capacity and confidence to apply improvement with a strong element of mutuality. The thesis contends that in the changes from an agrarian to a more urbanised and industrialised society, agriculture and its development became a marginalised activity in respect of government policy and the related commitment to research, education and extension through a systematic publicly funded and integrated range of services The thesis is divided into nine chapters. The first two provide a context to the subject and Cumbria's validity as a region for the study through an examination of key characteristics having a bearing on the research. Chapter Three considers a review of literature, sources and their interpretation. Five chapters form the main case study. Individual initiatives form Chapters Four and Five for the period c.1800-1870. Chapters Six and Seven analyse the period of transition c.1870-1900 during which the application of science through ./ organisations was characterised by mutuality and led to the introduction of public funding delegated to local authorities. The development of systematic formal agricultural education and extension during the period c.1895-1920, through more visible structures forms the core of Chapter Seven. In Chapter Eight a study of the emergence of publicly funded provision in five neighbouring north of England counties places the Cumbria case in context. The conclusions in chapter nine find that agriculture, and ipso facto agricultural education and extension during the study period, became marginalised as the drift of power moved from the landed to urban and industrial interests. Paradoxically, improvement through individual leadership, innovation and mutuality formed a continuum of capacity building at all stages, spatially embracing regional, national and international links. Regional interactions between the actors in the six counties of northern England developed provision with different emphases in higher education, research, extension and instruction for typical farmers and workers, in which Cumbrian outcomes were exemplars of national note, within the constraints of financial resources.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available