A Return to Halves in the Twentieth Century

  • Elizabeth Griffiths
  • Mark Overton


In the early twentieth century, farming at halves reappears in documents after an absence of nearly 200 years. This is not profit-sharing, associating labourers with philanthropic landowners as in the nineteenth century (our Type C), or the cow leasing of the eighteenth century (Type G), but a return to the classic version of sharefarming encountered in the early modern period, where landowners and farmers agreed to divide the produce, rather than have a fixed money rent (Type A).1 The evidence, recorded in farm diaries and newspapers, strengthens our belief that the practice never died out amongst farming families. Yet, as in the nineteenth century, no references to farming to halves in this period have been found in contemporary or modern academic accounts. Indeed, in 1923, Venn commented that, despite the advantages métayage had conferred on French agriculture, the practice could never have flourished in England; ‘it calls for a too domestic partnership between landlord and tenant, a partnership as uncongenial to the type of landowner found in this country, as to his more independent tenant’.2


Twentieth Century Sugar Beet Early Modern Period Winter Grazing Contract Farming 
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    R. Stanes, The Old Farm: A History of Farming Life in the West Country, (Exeter: Devon Books, 1990), p. 7.Google Scholar
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    E.J.T. Collins, ‘Rural and agricultural change’, in idem (ed.) The Agrarian History of England and Wales, Vol. VII, 1850–1914, part I, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000), pp. 208–23Google Scholar
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    P. Barnes, Norfolk Landowners since 1880, (Norwich: Centre of East Anglian Studies, 1993).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Elizabeth Madeleine Griffiths and Mark Overton 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Elizabeth Griffiths
    • 1
  • Mark Overton
    • 1
  1. 1.University of ExeterUK

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