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Government policy and British agriculture 1917-1939

Webber, A. R (1982) Government policy and British agriculture 1917-1939. Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) thesis, University of Kent. (doi:10.22024/UniKent/01.02.86084) (KAR id:86084)


This work considers government policy towards British agriculture, and the experiences of domestic farming from 1917 to 1939. It comprises a discussion of the development and limitations of agricultural policy, the production of farm commodities, patterns of agricultural incomes, and changes in farm performance and output. Public Record Office files, parliamentary papers, ministerial publications, and surveys made by agricultural organizations, have been used to show how government policy and British farming responded to changing agricultural conditions. A large number of statistics have been compiled to clarify trends in agricultural production, agricultural incomes, and farm performance. The study is divided into a discussion of the development of policy from the First World War to 1939; an investigation of policy and production in respect of the principal farm commodities which were in receipt of government support; and an examination of the experiences of landlords, labourers, and farmers, (including an assessment of farm performance). The thesis shows how the government became extensively involved in agriculture as a result of the wartime food production campaign and its attempt to promote agricultural expansion in the immediate post-War years; and how support was abandoned and agricultural incomes generally remained low until the end of the 1920s. Agriculture suffered severely from the depression of 1929-33, which saw the institution of direct government subsidies and import protection. Once the government accepted responsibility for the welfare of agriculture, it became involved in discussions not only with domestic farmers, but also with overseas suppliers of farm produce. Although agricultural incomes rose in the 1930s, this was due not only to policy and improved farming, but also to the failure to renew farm capital. When prices fell farmers usually were able to campaign successfully for further support, until by 1939 every major product of British agriculture was in receipt of some form of government assistance.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy (PhD))
DOI/Identification number: 10.22024/UniKent/01.02.86084
Additional information: This thesis has been digitised by EThOS, the British Library digitisation service, for purposes of preservation and dissemination. It was uploaded to KAR on 09 February 2021 in order to hold its content and record within University of Kent systems. It is available Open Access using a Creative Commons Attribution, Non-commercial, No Derivatives ( licence so that the thesis and its author, can benefit from opportunities for increased readership and citation. This was done in line with University of Kent policies ( If you feel that your rights are compromised by open access to this thesis, or if you would like more information about its availability, please contact us at and we will seriously consider your claim under the terms of our Take-Down Policy (
Uncontrolled keywords: Political science; Agronomy
Subjects: D History General and Old World > D History (General)
J Political Science > JA Political science (General)
S Agriculture
Divisions: Divisions > Division for the Study of Law, Society and Social Justice > School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research
SWORD Depositor: SWORD Copy
Depositing User: SWORD Copy
Date Deposited: 29 Oct 2019 16:27 UTC
Last Modified: 15 Feb 2022 12:55 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

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