Rural History 2015

Panel 68

Organizers: Schuurman, Anton

Affiliation: Wageningen University, Netherlands, The

Title: Rural pluralities in Europe. Histories from the countryside since the Interwar years

Looking backwards from the beginning of the twenty-first century it can be seen that in all worldregions during the past 75 years the countryside went through major changes. These changes were at the one hand connected to each other through encompassing political, cultural and economic processes ranging from colonialism to capitalism and to the project of Development, but at the other hand they were different from each other according to particular historical and geographical circumstances and different contexts. With hindsight the process of modernization of the countryside has been much more heterogeneous than it was expected. The rural modernization process was not an exogenous, uni-linear process, but it was multifaceted, interactive.
We use on purpose the word rural and not agricultural, because we think that the changing relationship between agriculture and the countryside has been one of the defining processes in twentieth century history. During a large part of the twentieth century agriculture came to dominate, perhaps more than ever, the image and reality of the countryside, while in the latter part in many regions of the world the link between agriculture and countryside became weaker as did the connection between towns and industry.
Apart from this the countryside was also strongly and differently influenced by the Twentieth Century political processes - communism, fascism, liberalism, Christian democracy and social democracy and their different fate, timing and sequence – that all left their own tracks on the history of the countryside.
In this panel we want to unleash rural history from national historiography. When asked to discuss the main problems of the countryside in their country in the 1980s, the Dutch would mention manure and the environment, the French the liveability of the villages, the Portuguese the problem of illiteracy, the Spaniards the rural depopulation. The problems of the countryside were approached from a national mind set and were extremely divergent depending on the country where one lived.
An aim of our session is to see whether the histories of rural regions demonstrate such great variety and to deepen our insights in historical processes of change. But we want to question too the interrelations between changes and developments in different parts of Europe. The relation can sometimes be more direct in the sense e.g. that from 1958 onwards the European integration process started to play an increasing role especially with regard to agriculture and the countryside.
By viewing rural history from a different, comparative perspective we want to establish new insight into the rural history of the last 75 years - perhaps less universalistic, more differentiated but also less nostalgic. Many transformations did take places in many rural regions. Often they are portrayed in a vein of loss but sometimes someone writes like Robert Wuthnow on the American Middle West:
“... the American Middle West has undergone a strong, positive transformation since the 1950s. ... The transformation that occurred here was largely beneficial, notwithstanding the fact that millions of people were displaced from their communities, because this displacement resulted in new opportunities for employment and a healthier relationship between the region and the rest of the nation”
It is from the perspective of transformation that we want to approach the history of the countryside in different parts of Europe since the Interwar Years. By presenting regional/national histories we hope to give a more diverse and at the same time more integrated picture of the twentieth century rural development process of Europe as a whole. To advance this goal this panel likes to assemble a number of case studies from European countries.



Chair: Zsuzsanna Varga, Loránd Eötvös University, Hungary

Discussant: Juan-Pan Montojo, Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, Spain

Paper 1: The Spanish path of agrarian change in the twentieth century [+]

Ernesto Clar, Miguel Martín-Retortillo, Vicente Pinilla, Universidad de Zaragoza, Spain

Paper 2: The Rise and Fall(?) of Fordism in Scandinavian agriculture

Mats Morell, Stockholm University, Sweden

Paper 3: Perceptions of Farm Modernity, the Effects of Positioning the Old against the New in the Drive for Technological Change in Britain 1920-1960 [+]

Karen Sayer, Leeds Trinity University, UK

Paper 4 The reshaping of the Dutch countryside in the twentieth century – the rise and decline of a farmer’s world

Anton Schuurman, Wageningen University, the Netherlands


Suggested deadline for sending completed papers 31 july 2015

© 2014 Rural History 2015