Abstract

Though historians have begun to chart the development of intensive agriculture in twentieth-century Great Britain and to seek to understand postwar conceptualizations of the rural, they have paid less attention to the question of public attitudes to and perceptions of intensification. By focusing on the public debate surrounding the publication of Ruth Harrison's Animal Machines (1964), this article seeks to better understand the impact of the book by exploring the context in which it was published, the extent and nature of reporting in connection with it, and its reception. The article draws on the specialist and farming press from the period, in parallel to the broadsheets and parliamentary debate, and uses battery farming as a case study. It argues that, though materially significant, the rhetorical opposition established in this debate between intensive and traditional systems was representative neither of British agricultural production in the 1960s nor of the established concerns about “factory farming” already being discussed in the countryside at that time.

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