Food for War: Agriculture and Rearmament in Britain before the Second World War

Food for War: Agriculture and Rearmament in Britain before the Second World War

Food for War: Agriculture and Rearmament in Britain before the Second World War

Food for War: Agriculture and Rearmament in Britain before the Second World War

Synopsis

Food for War is a ground-breaking study of Britain's food and agricultural preparations in the 1930s as the nation once again made ready for war. Historians writing about 1930s Britain have usually focused on the Depression, appeasement, or political, military, and industrial concerns. None have dealt adequately with another significant topic, food and agriculture, as the nation moved, albeit reluctantly, from peace to war. In this new account Alan F. Wilt makes right this omission byexamining in depth the relationship between food, agriculture, and the nation's preparations for war. He reveals how food and agriculture became closely linked to rearmament as early as 1936; that the government's preparations in this sector, as contrasted with other areas of the economy, were relatively well-developed when war broke out in 1936; and that rural and farm interests well understood the effect that war would have on their way of life. He argues that food and agriculture need tobe integrated into the more general historical discourse, for what happened in Britain in the 1930s not only set the stage for World War II, but also contributed to a more robust agriculture in the decades that followed.

Excerpt

The story of the interrelationships among food, agriculture, and rearmament in 1930s Britain is indeed enlightening. Though dominated by military considerations, it is a broader story that exhibits political, economic, and social overtones as well. It further highlights the roles of highly dedicated civil servants, often narrow-minded lobbyists, and local newspaper editors, who put aside or modified their partisan positions in the interests of the nation. Together they informed and helped shape the government’s food policy, which in contrast to a number of other areas was quickly implemented and largely succeeded during World War ii that followed. It is, in short, a story worth telling.

Writing this book was exhilarating, but it would not have been possible without invaluable assistance from numerous institutions, archives, and individuals. Iowa State University granted me a faculty leave which gave me time to organize my thoughts and to do research at the Public Record Office, the Scottish Record Office, and the National Library of Scotland while the University of Glasgow provided me with an academic home-away-from-home. Additional research trips allowed me to take advantage of the wonderful archivists and helpful staffs at the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland, the British Library, the British Library Newspaper Library, the Institute of Agricultural History, and the us National Archives. I have also done research and been granted permission to quote from the Astor Papers at the Reading University Library Archives; the Harvie-Watt Papers at the Churchill Archives Centre, Cambridge; and the Woolton Papers at the Bodleian Library, Oxford. Although not an archive, the Headquarters of the National Federation of Women’s Institutes in London allowed me to examine its Executive Committee Minutes.

Among the many individuals who discussed and corresponded with me about my research, and saved me from numerous errors, are Simon Ball, Anne Crowther, Mike French, Milt Gustafson, Linda Hoare, Colin Kidd, Richard Kottman, John Martin, Tim Nenninger, Neil Rollings, Hew Strachan, and David Syrett. Jonathan Brown of the Institute of Agricultural History in Reading deserves special mention for . . .

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