Tuesday, 2 October 2012

The history of British allotments: a survey

As a historian, I though it might be useful to place online a quick survey of some items on the history of British allotments:

A history of the allotment system in the Victorian period can be found in the Earl of Onslow's book Landlords and allotments: the history and present condition of the allotment systems (1886). This is free on Archive.org, and has Kindle and iPad editions.

A new academic book on the Victorian period is The Allotment Movement in England, 1793-1873 (2011). There is also a close examination using local Victorian sources, in the book Breaking New Ground: Nineteenth-Century Allotments from Local Sources (2010).

The history of allotments in Britain to the start of the First World War is briefly covered in the first chapter of the free Allotments for all; the story of a great movement (1918), which is available for free on Archive.org. Kindle and iPad versions are available. Most of the book is about the wartime experience.

A longer general survey can be found in the book The Allotment Chronicles: A Social History of Allotment Gardening (2006).

A short left-leaning academic summary paper is Allotment Gardens: A Reflection of History, Heritage, Community and Self (2011), which is free online. The paper has a rather timid bibliography, which doesn't include the two Archive.org books linked above. It also glosses over the right-wing roots of the 'Dig for Victory' campaign in the Second World War, opting to mention the left-leaning Quakers instead. For instance, the wartime Agriculture Minister responsible for instigating 'Dig for Victory' had been a member of the ultra right-wing English Mistery theoretical grouplet — on this see Dan Stone's "The Far Right and the Back-to-the-Land Movement" (2004).

A general book-length history of allotments in the Second World War can be found in Digging for Victory: Gardens and Gardening in Wartime Britain (2010).

The history of British allotments also features — with an anarchist slant — in Colin Ward's The Allotment: Its Landscape and Culture (1988) which has much to say about Council sell-offs in the 1960s and 1970s.

A more academic book that covers the 20th century in Britain is Denis Moran's The Allotment Movement in Britain (1990).

Some allotments societies have produced their own published histories, such as Gardeners' city: A history of the Letchworth Allotments & Horticultural Association, 1906-1996 (1996). Some cities have also produced history pamphlets, such as Lincoln's Allotments: A History (2008), or have included chapters on their city history in a book-length general survey — such as Allotments and small holdings in Oxfordshire (1917).

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