The Social Study of Family Farming

  • W. M. Williams


In general the objective study of English country life has been much neglected and our view of it is obscured by a sentimental or romantic outlook which is a peculiar characteristic of the English. It is true that certain aspects of country life have been carefully investigated for many years. Agriculture, the basic industry of the countryside, has been given a great deal of attention and much is known about farming techniques and economic structure. The rural landscape has been studied by geographers who have, for example, analysed its evolution or shown how patterns of settlement and land use can be related to such factors as relief, soil, climate or other aspects of the physical environment. Thus we know in some detail about the geographical background to East Anglian cereal growing or to sheep farming on the Lakeland fells as well as the most efficient methods to use in these areas, the effects of using new fertilizers or modern machinery and the economics of livestock husbandry or wheat production. Unfortunately, these studies have become more and more specialised and their relevance to each other has become increasingly difficult to discern. Even more serious, the social study of farming has been almost completely ignored, and very little indeed is known about the social organisation and structure of the farming community or, for that matter, of country folk as a whole.


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  1. This study is a slightly amended version of the Lister Lecture given at the Cardiff meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science in September 1963. The field work was supported by a generous grant from the Darlington Hall Trustees and is the subject of an extended analysis in A West Country Village: Ashworthy, Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1963. The name of the parish and all personal and place names used in this study are fictitious.Google Scholar
  2. Arensberg, C. M., and Kimball, S. T. (1939) Family and community in Ireland.Google Scholar
  3. National Farm Survey of England and Wales (1946) Summary Report, pp. 31–5 and Table A9.Google Scholar
  4. Rees, A. D. (1950) Life in a Welsh countryside, pp. 146–8, 184–5.Google Scholar
  5. Williams, W. M. (1956) The sociology of an English village: Gosforth Ch. 1.Google Scholar

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© Macmillan Publishers Limited 1973

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  • W. M. Williams

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