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Title: 'The ruin of rural England': an interpretation of late nineteenth century agricultural depression, 1879-1914
Authors: Roberts, Jason Lewis
Keywords: Small holdings
National identity
Issue Date: 1997
Publisher: © Jason Lewis Roberts
Abstract: This thesis attempts a re-interpretation of late nineteenth-century agricultural depression, specifically in England, by complementing economic histories to suggest a hitherto neglected cultural component equally defined Victorian comprehension of both the phenomenon's geographic distribution and symbolic form. Adopting recent theoretical shifts in historical geography that validate the use of literary evidence in combination with economic data sources, the thesis claims depression was constructed from an accretion of mythologised layers of meaning deposited unconsciously or otherwise. These symbolic forms influenced spatial outcomes both in material and imaginary realms, and the nature of debate at varying levels from fanning debates to intellectual discourses. The thesis examines three distinct examples of the accumulation and distribution of depression symbolism and how each signification was acted upon by different discursive communities. Firstly, attention will be directed towards farming behaviour and the consumption of depression myth. Critically the thesis suggests within farming, depression emerged as a state of mind that inhibited the production of indigenous solutions, thus further propagating depression. Secondly, the thesis moves on to examine how the- technicalities of agrarian debate were seized by wider national debates, thus further codifying the depression with numerous social anxieties such as fin de siecle fears, national destabilisation and racial degeneration. Interestingly, icons of failure conferred upon depression within this higher level of discursive interaction are returned to the parochial level, further influencing farming behaviour. An additional implication suggests the geography of depression is heavily skewed towards a perceived threat to an invented homeland at a time of emergent national identities. Finally, the thesis considers an agrarian-led response to farm failure, the introduction of small holdings and the philosophy of la petite culture, as a potential solution. The theoretical basis of land reform campaigns envisaged a major overhaul of the failed rural order of patrician sponsored agriculture, yet were influenced by the accumulated mythology of depression. Thus farm failure as conceived within imaginary geographies proved as persuasive in interpreting depression as physical expressions of distress in real space.
Description: A Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the award of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.
URI: https://dspace.lboro.ac.uk/2134/7515
Appears in Collections:PhD Theses (Geography)

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