Agriculture, Prosperity and the Modernization of French Rural Communities 1870-1914

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Unlike most historical works pertaining to this period, this work conveys an understanding of the daily routine of farming. It relies on the observations of the novelist and social activist Émile Guillaumin (1873-1956) as well as statistics and reports emanating from government sources. It offers an alternative account of the process and measures of change in rural communities, using the approach that Marc Bloch (1886-1944), the great historian of medieval rural societies, used in his work. It includes case studies of several small communities in the Allier which portray the status of agricultural production and consumption, using government statistic such as comprehensive government data collection efforts and annual surveys published by the Ministry of Commerce.


“Stephen Russell’s welcome and important book addresses one of the great paradoxes of modern French history: across the century to 1914, smallholdings continued to proliferate in the countryside, and yet total farm output more than kept pace with a rising urban and national population….A great merit of Russell’s book is his successful attempt to view this process through the eyes of the villageois themselves, particularly through studying the use made of the newly democratized village councils and proliferating agricultural unions….the implications of this case-study go well beyond one region, or even the debate on the extent and nature of change in French agriculture in the nineteenth century….Whereas these conflicts were located within national parameters in the nineteenth century, today they occur within international confrontations about agricultural protection and subsidies, and pit protesters against the World Trade Organization as much as national governments and entrepreneurs.” – Dr. Peter McPhee, University of Melbourne

“[The] detailed study of one department, the Allier, in central France, rests upon excellent archival research and a sure command of the literature … Recommended. Graduate students/faculty.” – CHOICE

Table of Contents

Maps; Table
Preface by Dr. Peter McPhee
1. Two Paths to Modernization
2. Making Sense of the Countryside
3. Soil, Work and Wealth
4. Petit-Commerce
5. Voices of Les Villageois
6. Claiming: Les Syndicats and the Municipal Councils
Bibliography; Index

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