The terms ‘community’ and ‘local’ carry with them a host of preconceived ideas and positive connotations which are often taken as self-evident. This study re-examines the two ideas in the context of a farming community in Yorkshire in the early part of the twentieth century, using original oral testimony obtained through the author’s pre-existing connections with the locality. A key component of this investigation is the use of classic works on community, ethnography, sociology, ontology, philosophy and critical theory to provide a foundation on which to build an understanding of the oral evidence. By exploring themes of space and place, gender and embodiment, and social and cultural boundaries, it is possible to trace the threads upon which community is based as they continued through the large-scale changes which characterised the period 1914 to 1951, and even into the twenty-first century. The evidence for this continuity among Lower Wharfedale’s farming community suggests that the idea of the decline of rural communities during the twentieth century is flawed. While quantitative decline is evident, what emerges from this study is a picture of a community which ensures its own survival by adapting and changing to suit the context in which it finds itself, relying on trust, shared knowledge and experience, and a sense of shared identity and ‘togetherness’ in order to survive. The study concludes that ‘community’ is a performance given through the activities of everyday life, a possession to be protected or given as a gift by its members, and a passport granting entry to other communities which overlap in terms of membership or values.
Rowling, Jane Elizabeth, “Farming community and identity in Lower Wharfedale, Yorkshire, 1914-1951,” Centre for English Local History Theses and Papers, accessed April 9, 2020, https://elhleics.omeka.net/items/show/156.