English interwar farming: A study of the financial outcomes of individual farms, 1919-1939


The interwar years were particularly harsh for the farming community. The big upsurge of prices during the Great War was quickly reversed in 1920-1921. Government considered the plight of farming in 1923 but, when this improved, continued laissez-faire policies throughout the 1920s. However, they became interventionist in 1932-1933, first with subsidies for wheat and then later with cattle and other grain products.
There is scant research into the profitability of the different branches of farming. While there is reasonable historiography for the 1920s, there is very little detailed information about the fortunes of farming in the 1930s, a gap which this thesis has filled. This study is based on 35 studies of profitability of individual farming operations, and it uniquely offers an insight into the minutiae of farming in the interwar years. Apart from identifying individual trends of the components of arable and livestock farming, it also evidences benefits of specialisation or competitive edge where these were found.
After the price adjustment of 1920-1921, mixed farming was the first to become unprofitable due to increasing imports from major grain producing countries. Cattle were the next to come under pressure from the Meat Trusts of North America. Milk had its problems too, so no sector was immune during the study period. The 1930s were almost universally harsh for farming, with the exception of cattle grazing in the second half of that decade. Where in earlier times there may have been a greater degree of commonality of outcomes with mixed farming at the fore, this later period saw a divergence in farmers’ fortunes, which this thesis articulates.





Heaton, Michael Wallace, “English interwar farming: A study of the financial outcomes of individual farms, 1919-1939,” Centre for Regional and Local History Theses and Papers, accessed May 20, 2024, https://elhleics.omeka.net/items/show/25.