Monday, 3 June 2013

Wartime Farm

I mentioned an episode of Time Team recently that dealt with “experimental architecture”. In the same post I mentioned this superb series from the BBC that took the idea of experimental architecture, or perhaps more accurately “living history”, quite a bit further

While I find history fascinating, too often it deals with which king invaded which neighbouring land, and which general won which battle. Interesting in its own way, but to me the more mundane day to day life is far more interesting. What sort of houses did people live in? How did they build them? What did they eat? How did they prepare it? What sort of household goods did they use? What tools and techniques did they use to make them? What sort of clothing did people wear? How did they make them? Were those clothes truly suited to the environment or tasks performed, or defined by the limitations of the materials available and manufacturing techniques possible? Not so much the who and the when, but more the what and the how.

To me this is just superb television. It’s 8 hours of incredibly educational watching. Wearing period garb, and using contemporary equipment, and with many subject matter experts coming on for various segments, this gives a very vivid look at the day to day affairs of a historical period. Love this show. I knew that there was rationing in Britain, and that U-Boats were choking off the supply of many goods. But seeing this gave me a whole new appreciation of what people went through between 1939-1945. Given that the start of the war came off the tail end of the Depression, that must have added a layer of difficulty.

I’ve seen Tales From the Green Valley, and Victorian Farm. Now I’ve watched this series. Then I still need to watch Edwardian Farm. Oh and there is also another variant, Victorian Pharmacy.

And I’m sure there will be critics who claim that a mere year wouldn’t be enough to get a full sense of the difficulties farmers faced, or that they’re just playing at it, or that they have the benefit of hindsight. Don’t care. Those are all just pedantic quibbles. I think this is great educational television.

One thing that struck me is how much things have changed, both in how agriculture is done, and also how life in Britain in general has changed. Technology, social mores, etc. And it really wasn’t so long ago. There are still people alive who remember the era, and I was born a mere quarter century after WW2. Reading about it doesn’t give the same sense of a period as seeing it recreated like this. And I also wonder how todays populace of the UK, or any where in the western world would fare in the face of these sorts of challenges.

Watching this also made me wonder what the effects of Peak Oil might have on our own agricultural system, and if we can learn anything from the challenges faced by farmers in the UK in the mid 20th century.

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