Cage Free Since 1919

93.2 Issue

(Spring 2019)

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Wild Harvesting, Self-Sown Crops, and the Ambiguous Modernity of Australian Agriculture REBECCA JONES and ANDREA GAYNOR

The beginning of European-style agriculture in Australia, following colonization by Britain in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, occurred at the height of the Industrial Revolution. Australian agriculture developed a precocious global export orientation along with a broad uptake of scientific methods and new agricultural technologies. We argue that although Australian agriculture was “born modern,” its modernity was ambiguous, as sitting beside its conventionally modern attributes were practices such as the harvesting, by farmers, of wild plants and animals as well as self–sown cereal crops. These practices were widespread and contributed significantly to the operation of the farm and the broader agricultural economy. The ubiquity and importance of these practices challenge conventional understandings of the modernity of Australian agriculture by disrupting ideas of the supremacy of the export economy, the ubiquity of scientific agriculture, and the displacement of human control from its position at the center of modern agriculture.

Origins and Pathways of Agricultural Demonstration in Lesotho, Southern Africa, 1924–1960s CHRISTOPHER CONZ

In 1924 the agricultural department in Lesotho, southern Africa, launched a demonstration program whereby local men performed rural outreach. Studies of agricultural demonstration in Africa and elsewhere have focused on the ways colonial and segregationist states deployed knowledge and policy via demonstrators to control people and landscapes. This article complicates this important position by arguing that the problems and possibilities of agricultural demonstration, which today remains central to agrarian policy in many countries, must be situated at the intersection of political, economic, and ecological processes operating across multiple scales. This story involves agricultural networks in the British Empire and the American South, and focuses especially on farmers, demonstrators, and politicians in Lesotho and South Africa. Most importantly, local narratives from mountainous Lesotho show that the location of demonstrations, the identity of the demonstrators, and their changing priorities and approaches were key factors in determining how these programs unfolded.

“Boost the Farm Bureau”: Agricultural Leaders, Progressive Musicians, and Social Orchestration in Iowa, 1921–1937 SETH HEDQUIST

This article tells the story of musicians in rural Iowa who played on behalf of their county farm bureaus between 1921 and 1937. An examination of their family and kinship ties and their musical repertoires reveals that these performers brought community and a wide array of song styles to farm bureau events. Their stories highlight the difference between using an institution to enhance social and career opportunities, and promoting it and its leaders' ideals. 

The Origins of Mexico's Banco Nacional de Crédito Ejidal, in Thought and Practice NICOLE MOTTIER

This article examines the creation and operation of the Banco Nacional de Crédito Ejidal (National Bank of Ejidal Credit), a bank that was founded to lend to ejidatarios, a certain type of Mexican peasant. The first part of this article argues that Manuel Gómez Morín, the architect of the Banco Nacional de Crédito Ejidal, sought to bureaucratize ejidatarios' multifaceted and localized financial lives, disciplining them and channeling them away from their local communities toward national production plans set by governing elites, while using loans to uplift and moralize the peasants themselves. The article further argues that Gómez Morín's ideas changed rather dramatically when put into practice. Administrators were concerned with the pragmatic issues of making sure ejidatarios amortized their debts appropriately and applied their loans to the crops the federal government wanted them to grow. Examining the ways that racial assumptions affected the conception and creation of the Banco Ejidal brings new life to the study of economic policymaking in Mexico and offers a new direction for studies of agricultural banks.

Irrigation Infrastructure, Technocratic Faith, and Irregularities of Vision: Canada's Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Administration in Ghana, 1965–1970 SHANNON STUNDEN BOWER

Between 1965 and 1970, Canada's Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Administration (PFRA) took on an international development project in the newly independent African nation of Ghana. The PFRA was an agency of the federal government responsible for driving mid-twentieth-century agricultural adjustment on the Canadian prairies. This paper explores how the PFRA's technical experts conceptualized and experienced their involvement in the development of irrigation projects in northern Ghana, both in early optimistic moments and in the face of mounting challenges. I examine the strategies through which PFRA experts sought to manage unfamiliar professional contexts and, along with the families that traveled with them, to adjust to changed personal circumstances. Challenges ensued largely from the PFRA's failure to adequately grasp the environmental and cultural circumstances in which it operated, and these ultimately contributed to the agency's decision to abandon the project. Left in the PFRA's wake was a changed landscape defined in part by exacerbated risk of endemic disease. By examining PFRA efforts in northern Ghana, I demonstrate how a broad analytical approach—one that documents and contextualizes the irregularities of vision characteristic of what Michael Latham has called technocratic faith—contributes to nuanced understandings of international development processes.

This Fear of Death May Be Killing Us: The Agricultural History Society Considers Its Demise JAMES C. GIESEN

The field of agricultural history suffers from an anxiety about its own death. In three sessions of cognitive therapy, this article puts the scholarly subject and the society that flies its banner “on the couch” to diagnose and—ideally—help alleviate the condition. An examination of the past, present, and future of the society and the field reveals that this fear of death has been present from the beginning and has played a major role in shaping and reshaping its boundaries. The article argues that the fates of agricultural history and the Agricultural History Society are forever linked and that the society must continue to make the edges of its tent flexible, though not ever-expanding.


Latin America and the Caribbean

Turner, Contested Bodies: Pregnancy, Childrearing, and Slavery in Jamaica, by Ebony Jones
Castillo, Crafting a Republic for the World: Scientific, Geographic, and Historiographic Inventions of Colombia, by Joshual Rosenthal
Martin, Banana Cowboys: The United Fruit Company and the Culture of Corporate Colonialism, by Mark Moberg 


Fagan, Fishing: How the Sea Fed Civilization, by Jordan Coulombe
Ambrose and Jensen, Women in Agriculture: Professionalizing Rural Life in North America and Europe, 1880-1965, by Michelle Martindale
Munns, Engineering the Environment: Phytotrons and the Quest for Climate Control in the Cold War, by Aaron Thomas


Ukelina, The Second Colonial Occupation: Development Planning, Agriculture, and the Legacies of British Rule in Nigeria, by John C. Mitcham

North America

Kiser, Borderlands of Slavery: The Struggle over Captivity and Peonage in the American Southwest, by Michael F. Magliari
Egge, Woman Suffrage and Citizenship in the Midwest, 1870–1920, by Barbara J. Steinson
Ruis, Eating to Learn, Learning to Eat: The Origins of School Lunch in America, by Nicholas J. P. Williams
Gisolfi, The Takeover: Chicken Farming and the Roots of American Agribusiness, by Claire J. Du Laney
Stroshane, Drought, Water Law, and the Origins of California's Central Valley Project, by Jeffrey CharlesKruger,  J. C. Penney: The Man, the Store, and American Agriculture, by Jeffrey Kolnick
McDonald, Food Power: The Rise and Fall of the Postwar American Food System, by Jayson Otto
Enciso, They Should Stay There: The Story of Mexican Migration and Repatriation during the Great Depression, by Luis H. Moreno