Farm diaries

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There has been a mini-in­dus­try of ru­ral rem­i­nis­cences pro­duced for pub­li­ca­tion and ar­chive col­lec­tions of­ten have un­pub­lished man­u­script rec­ol­lec­tions to ex­plore.

An en­try in the ar­chive cat­a­logue for farm di­ary might set the pulse rac­ing, as we look for­ward to a lat­ter- day Sa­muel Pepys de­scrib­ing life on the farm, all his fam­ily and vil­lage ac­quain­tances in vivid de­tail. There are some diaries like that, but not very many.

Most farm diaries were more like our desk diaries and you can gain a lot of in­for­ma­tion about the farmer’s cir­cle of work­ing con­tacts from them. Early in the 19th cen­tury, sta­tion­ers were print­ing diaries for farm­ers’ use and into their pages went records of ap­point­ments and daily ac­tiv­i­ties, notes on the weather, the fields be­ing har­vested, the cows put to the bull, vis­its to the mar­ket, mem­o­randa of bills paid and ac­counts set­tled.

Diaries of­ten name the peo­ple wwho the farmer dealt with ev­ery dday from the corn mer­chants and live­stock deal­ers to trades­men, ssuch as the coal mer­chant. For eex­am­ple, Joseph Steven­son, who ffarmed in the Vale of the White HHorse in Berk­shire (now OOx­ford­shire), noted that he had sold some cows to Mr Perry in NNovem­ber 1909.

Us­ing di­rec­to­ries, we can build up a de­tailed pic­ture of the faarmer’s world. Some farm diaries even men­tion the farmer’s ex­tra- cur­ric­u­lar ac­tiv­i­ties, such as mem­ber­ship of the board of guardians or par­ish over­seers.

There might be an en­try in the di­ary “paid the men”, and some farm­ers go as far as to list each of the men by name and how much they were paid ev­ery week.

Farm­ersF used d spe­ciali l di di­ariesi like this one from the col­lec­tion at MERL

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