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Volume 90, Number 1 (Winter 2016)

Preserving Agricultural History through Lands and Buildings SALLY MCMURRY

Despite their apparent compatibility, agricultural land preservation (focused on preserving farmland for future agricultural use) and historic preservation programs (focused on rehabilitation and continued use of historic buildings) seldom operate together. Though sometimes farming and historic preservation are in fact incompatible, in many cases the two kinds of preservation may be pursued together. The prospects seem best where farming is an ancillary household activity (for example a hobby farm or a part-time farm); where it is firmly tied to tourism; where it is small scale and diversified, such as in local food or Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) production; and where it is one part of a larger strategy that includes natural resource conservation. Successful collaborations have developed throughout the mid-Atlantic and New England. No matter how the blending is pursued, agricultural historians can play a crucial mediating role by providing high-quality documentation.

Agricultural History talks to Sally McMurry

The Characteristics of Coffee Production and Agriculture in the State of São Paulo in 1905 FRANCISCO VIDAL LUNA, HERBERT S. KLEIN, AND WILLIAM SUMMERHILL

This study, based on an extraordinary agricultural census carried out in the state of São Paulo, Brazil, in 1905, analyzes both the importance and the structure of the fazendas (coffee plantations) in that state and shows that the major coffee producers coexisted with thousands of small- and medium-scale farmers also dedicated to coffee production. This analysis of the agricultural sector also demonstrates the existence of considerable production for the internal market, and, in many cases, on farms also producing coffee. The Mogiana region was the most important agricultural zone in the state, with the Valley of Paraiba having lost its importance by this time. This study also demonstrates the high productivity of the new agricultural zones. The expansion of the railroad system permitted paulista agriculture to spread into new areas and thus maintain its productivity. With virgin land available and state-subsidized European immigration providing labor, it was inevitable that coffee production expanded. This occurred despite the relatively unsophisticated nature of the farming technology employed. Few farmers, even in the most dynamic regions, utilized plows or similar equipment or applied chemical fertilizers.

Conversations with Farmers: Oral History for Agricultural Historians MARK SCHULTZ

Oral history can enliven and deepen scholarship in agricultural history. It offers access to areas of investigation where traditional sources are scanty or uninformative. It is particularly useful for filling in the voices of women, minority groups, and the poor. It grants insight into the routines of daily life. And it allows investigators to enter into rich, collaborative relationships with their sources as no other historical methods can.

“From Oil Well to Farm”: Industrial Waste, Shell Oil, and the Petrochemical Turn (1927-1947) ADAM M. ROMERO

This paper traces two stories of agriculture that merged in late autumn 1944 on a lettuce field in California’s Salinas Valley. On that field, two transmuted industrial waste products from California’s rudimentary petroleum economy were at once injected into the soil and into agricultural production, spurring a radical transformation of crop rotation and recasting the organizational possibilities of industrial agriculture. Taken together, these stories tell a tale of capital and chemistry overcoming an ecological contradiction of agro-industrialization. This paper considers an earlier history of petroleum-based agrochemicals, situating their development in the interwar years and within the context of California’s emerging petroleum complex. It argues that, in the late 1920s, agriculture began its transformation into a new and immensely productive agricultural regime organized around the oil industry and its waste byproducts. The petrochemicals and subterranean chemical warfare that were developed during this time became industrial agriculture’s chemical salvation, providing both the soil disinfection power and the soil nutrition that made the massive yield increases in agricultural production following World War II possible.

Between War and Water: Farm, City and State in China’s Yellow River Flood of 1938-1947 KATHRYN EDGERTON-TARPLEY

This article examines how the catastrophic Yellow River flood of 1938–1947 impacted rural communities and state-society relations in the inundated area. The flood, which occurred when China’s Nationalist government deliberately breached a major Yellow River dike in a desperate attempt to use flooding to slow the advance of the Japanese Imperial Army, turned millions of Chinese farmers into refugees and killed over eight hundred thousand people. This essay explores the human and social sides of the flood through the eyes of local observers, missionaries, and the wartime Chinese media. It compares rural and urban experiences of the disaster and examines local perspectives on the efficacy of the flood relief projects organized by the Chinese government. This paper finds that while the wartime Nationalist state did not abandon the inundated area, its state-building efforts there exhausted and disillusioned flood refugees rather than integrating them more fully into the modern nation state.

Book Reviews


Cosner, The Golden Leaf: How Tobacco Shaped Cuba and the Atlantic World, by Juan José Baldrich

Bray et al., eds., Rice: Global Networks and New Histories, by Bradford J. Wood

Kardulias, ed., The Ecology of Pastoralism, by Andrea E. Williams

Essig, Lesser Beasts: A Snout-to-Tail History of the Humble Pig, by Sam White

Derry, Masterminding Nature: The Breeding of Animals, 1750–2010, by Ann Norton Greene

Jordan, Edible Memory: The Lure of Heirloom Tomatoes and Other Forgotten Foods, by William Kerrigan

Bohme, Toxic Injustice: A Transnational History of Exposure and Struggle, by Ellen Griffith Spears


Bell and Watson, Irish Farming Life: History and Heritage, by David R. Stead

Parker, Tasting French Terroir: The History of an Idea, by Charles C. Ludington

Smith, Works in Progress: Plans and Realities on Soviet Farms, 1930–1963, by Mark B. Tauger


Pietz, The Yellow River: The Problem of Water in Modern China, by Yan Gao

Kumar, Indigo Plantations and Science in Colonial India, by Eric Stahorn

North America

Dean, An Agrarian Republic: Farming, Antislavery Politics, and Nature Parks in the Civil War Era, by Megan Kate Nelson

Lowe, Baptized with the Soil: Christian Agrarians and the Crusade for Rural America, by Gilson Waldkoenig

Jones and Osgood, From King Cane to the Last Sugar Mill: Agricultural Technology and the Making of Hawaiʻi’s Premier Crop, by Lawrence H. Kessler

McPherson, Life in a Corner: Cultural Episodes in Southeastern Utah, 1880-1950, by Sondra Jones

Bowcutt, The Tanoak Tree: An Environmental History of a Pacific Coast Hardwood, by Jared Farmer

Archer, Unruly Waters: A Social and Environmental History of the Brazos River, by David Reid

Roberts, The Farm Security Administration and Rural Rehabilitation in the South, by Timothy J. Shaffer

Bieter Jr., Showdown in the Big Quiet: Land, Myth, and Government in the American West, by Merritt McKinney

Online Reviews

Hayden-Smith, Sowing the Seeds of Victory: American Gardening Programs of World War I, by Cecilia Gowdy-Wygant

Thistle, Resettling the Range: Animals, Ecologies, and Human Communities in British Columbia, by Etienne S. Benson

Cumbler, Cape Cod: An Environmental History of a Fragile Ecosystem, by Jackie Gonzales

Lobel, Urban Appetites: Food and Culture in Nineteenth-Century New York, by Catherine McNeur

Klein, A Call to Arms: Mobilizing America for World War II, by David B. Danbom

Drake, ed., The Blue, the Gray, and the Green: Toward an Environmental History of the Civil War, by Adam W. Dean

Gilbert, Planning Democracy: Agrarian Intellectuals and the Intended New Deal, by Daniel Immerwahr

Poole, Saving Florida: Women’s Fight for the Environment in the Twentieth Century, by Charles Closmann

Froese, California Mennonites, by David J. Cameron

Hurt, Agriculture and the Confederacy: Policy, Productivity, and Power in the Civil War South, by Judkin Browning

Elmore, Citizen Coke: The Making of Coca-Cola Capitalism, by Bryant Simon

Mills, Cold War in a Cold Land: Fighting Communism on the Northern Plains, by Steven J. Bucklin

Manganiello, Southern Water, Southern Power: How the Politic of Cheap Energy and Water Scarcity Shaped a Region, by Craig E. Colten

Olmstead and Rhode, Addressing Contagion: Science, Policy, and Conflicts over Animal Disease Control, by Lisa Cox

Harris, Fruits of Eden: David Fairchild and America’s Plant Hunters, by Anne Effland