Rural History 2015

Panel 41

Organizers: Gerhard, Gesine Martina (1)

Affiliation: 1: University of Pacific, United States of America

Title: Agrarian Virtues in Troubled Times: Food and Wine Production during War and Depression

"This panel explores how governments, food growers and wine producers used the rhetoric of agrarian virtues to increase agricultural production, ensure compliance with food controls and influence consumer behavior during the Great Depression and World War II.
The paper on France examines the contrast between Vichy government propaganda praising the economic importance and work ethic of peasants as the foundation for a healthy national economy, and the actual policies imposing a regime of fixed prices and state collection. The paper pays attention to the growing tensions between urban populations desperate for additional food in a tight rationing regime and the belief that farmers were earning massive profits by selling their produce at high prices on the black market. In the end, the Vichy Regime encouraged black market activity and managed to foster food shortages even in areas of agricultural surplus.
In Germany, the Nazi government also went to great lengths to praise the contributions of peasants and the value of their work. Peasants responded positively to the elevation of their status and produced food at low prices, but agricultural production could never be controlled to the degree that the Nazi planners had intended. To deal with the shortages, Nazi propaganda set out to change German eating habits by promoting domestically grown food and Spartan meals. A carefully designed food rationing system stretched limited resources and ensured that Germans had enough to it.
In California after Prohibition, vintners used symbols of agrarian virtue in their quest to broaden the mass market for wine and tried to unite grape growers and winemakers behind a collective advertising campaign. This paper demonstrates how a variety of factors—including ethnic identity, company size, and heavy investment in the wine industry during the war by major distillers (the paragons of mass production)—influenced how vintners and growers conceived of themselves as producers and how they deployed rural and industrial symbols to enhance wine’s mass market appeal."



Chair: Ken Albala, University of the Pacific, USA

Paper 1: "La terre, elle, ne ment pas: Vichy Mismanagement of French Agriculture, 1940-1944"

Kenneth Mouré, University of Alberta, Canada

Paper 2: “Eating at Home: Food Production and the Nazi Diet during World War II”

Gesine Gerhard, University of the Pacific, USA

Paper 3: “California Wine and the Politics of Agrarian Virtue during the Great Depression and World War II”

Lisa Jacobson, University of California, Santa Barbara, USA


Suggested deadline for sending completed papers 31 july 2015

© 2014 Rural History 2015