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Title: Lady Eve Balfour and the British organic food and farming movement
Author: Gill, Erin
Awarding Body: Aberystwyth University
Current Institution: Aberystwyth University
Date of Award: 2011
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This thesis explores the career of Lady Eve Balfour (1898-1990), the founder of the Soil Association, and her contribution to the British organic food and farming movement, as it emerged into public view after the Second World War. Eve Balfour's agricultural education at Reading University College during the First World War and her years as an owneroccupying farmer during the 1920s and 1930s in Suffolk are described, including her involvement in the tithe protest movement. A range of interests pursued by Eve Balfour during the inter-war period is also discussed, including novel writing and Spiritualist practices. Her 'conversion' - as war loomed - to compost-based humus famling and her corresponding rejection of inorganic fertilisers is examined, as is her decision to convert her farms into a research project to demonstrate the superiority of organic farming methods. The arguments contained in Eve Balfour's 1943 book, The Living Soil, are presented as well as evidence about advertisements and BBC radio broadcasts that drew attention to the book. The founding and primary activities of the Soil Association from 1946 through the early 1980s are outlined and the nature of the organisation considered, with emphasis placed on members' central belief in the relationship between agricultural methods and human health. The organisation's ambivalent response to science is also discussed. Eve Balfour's unconventional, New Age religious belief is explored, with questions raised about whether similar beliefs were held by other key early Soil Association figures. The impact of Eve Balfour's reputation for unconventional religious belief and the Soil Association's associated reputation for 'muck and mystery' are assessed. The tenacity of Eve Balfour in leading the organisation despite an increasingly-powerful body of support for industrial farming is emphasised, while the opportunity her New Age religious belief offered critics to dismiss the organisation she led is also acknowledged.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available