ABSTRACT

RuralhistoryinEnglandisnotingoodhealth.Thisisespeciallytrueofthe historywrittenabouttheperiodcoveredbythisvolume.Fortoolongthe mostprominenthistoriansoftheEnglishcountrysidehavebeenobsessed with'ploughsandcows'.Ruralhistoryhasbeensynonymouswithagriculturalhistory.Thecaseagainst'agriculturalhistory'andespecially againstitspresentprofoundlyossifiedstateasexemplifiedbytheAgriculturalHistoryReview,hasbeenputextremelyfluentlybyKeithSnell [personalcommunication]whorailsagainst

Itsnarrowlydefinedconceptionofthesubject,anditsreluctanceto makeanyprogressintotopicswhich...oughttobecentralto aproperlyconsidereddefinitionofourdisciplineandacademic concerns.'Agriculturalhistory'hasbeensonarrowlyconceivedfor suchalongtimethatitisalmosthardtoimaginethatitcouldbe otherwise.Webelievethatthereisnowwidespreaddisillusion withintherelevantscholarlycommunitywiththegeneralunimaginativeandreactionarytoneof'ploughandcow'agriculturalhistory, andwiththewaysinwhichso-called'establishedviewsareperpetuatedinanincreasinglypedestrianstyle,whichoftenlacksthe supportoffreshresearchandmoreoriginalthinking.