I taught the first class of the WEA “Food Heroes and Heroines” course this morning. Today was about introductions, a bit of administration and the Agricultural Revolution.
There were 18 students and I think it is going to be fun. They are asking lots of good questions already! Here are some I promised to bring back to the class next week with my answers so far.
- When was Thomas Malthus alive? He was born in 1766 and died in 1834.
- When were tarmaced roads introduced in Britain? This doesn’t have a simple answer. John Loudon McAdam introduced “macadamisation” around 1820. This produced good roads for horse traffic but, strictly speaking, “tarmac” is a type of road surface patented by Edgar Purnell Hooley in 1901.
- Does the Dishley Society set up by Robert Bakewell in 1783 still exist? I can’t find it so I guess that it has been absorbed into the Leicester Agricultural Society or perhaps the Leicester Sheep Breeders’ Association. There is a New Dishley Society which covers Robert Bakewell’s historical legacy.
- Why did the population of Britain double between 1801 and 1851 (8.7 to 16.7 million)? It can’t just be because of increased productivity on the farms, can it? The short answer is no. The population explosion was due to a variety of factors. It comes down to increased birth rates and decreased death rates. Given the dreadful living conditions in towns during the early 19th century I find this hard to believe but something was going on.
For more on the Agricultural Revolution this article by Professor Mark Overton on the BBC’s website, Agricultural Revolution in England 1500-1850, is worth a read.