Julio Escalona, Orri Vésteinsson and Stuart Brookes (Eds.) Polity and Neighbourhood in Early Medieval Europe Turnhout, Brepols, 2019, XVIII + 430 ...

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Historia Agraria, 83 Abril 2021 pp. 261-302 DOI 10.26882/histagrar.083r09b © 2021 The Author(s)
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Julio Escalona, Orri Vésteinsson and Stuart Brookes (Eds.)
Polity and Neighbourhood in Early Medieval Europe
Turnhout, Brepols, 2019, XVIII + 430 pp.

          his edited volume marks the cul-         teenth century. In total it contains three
          mination of a long-term collabo-         contributions by the editors (a short intro-
          ration between many of its con-          duction [pp. 1-9]; a dense but valuable dis-
tributors over the course of over fifteen          cussion of “Polities, Neighbourhoods and
years. Two previous volumes contain papers         things in-between” [pp. 11-38]; and a con-
that represent earlier phases of this collec-      clusion [pp. 407-14]), and thirteen arti-
tive, interdisciplinary effort aimed at ex-        cles. The fact that the volume includes sev-
ploring various interactions between social        enty-five figures is a testament to the
organisation and physical landscapes in            volume’s focus on archaeology and geog-
earlier medieval western Europe (Davies,           raphy. A glance at the contents page of the
Halsall & Reynolds, 2006; Escalona &               book suggests there are no sub-sections
Reynolds, 2011). The project, or projects,         and this reflects the editors’ view that the
have involved a changing cast of historians        papers do not warrant separation into dis-
and archaeologists whose regional spe-             tinct strands. At the same time the editors’
cialisms have been varied but the prepon-          introduction explains the logic of the order
derance of them have worked on the                 (pp. 5-8); it reflects connections between
Iberian peninsula and England between              the contributions, and that there are three
400 and 1100. This volume includes con-            rough sections.
tributions on northern and western Iberia,             The title of the editors’ co-written essay
the Netherlands, Italy, Norway and Ice-            includes a nice play on words, managing to
land, the last of which takes the chrono-          allude to different levels of socio-political
logical scope of the volume into the thir-         organisation, and þing (thing), the Old

Crítica de libros

Norse-Icelandic word for an assembly or             archetype of political centralisation and
parliament which might often categorise             therefore the kind of place where there was
the temporal and geographical level at              royal intervention at the level of the indi-
which localities and leaders interacted.            vidual estate. Astill is sceptical of some
Here they outline what they see as the pur-         claims that changes in field systems and set-
pose of the book: as a collection of discus-        tlement patterns were the result of, first,
sions of the nature of political organisation       Mercian and then English kings seeking to
for places and levels of organisation that do       micromanage production. Instead, to bor-
not receive enough attention, that is, sec-         row his terms, royal lordship was more
ondary states, or peripheries of the Frank-         likely to be extensive rather than intensive,
ish core (p. 12), in an era after and before        and shaped by local socio-economic net-
states are more readily observable. The dis-        works. Astill’s paper reminds anyone unfa-
cussion is wide-ranging and thought-pro-            miliar with the historical scholarship, in-
voking but might have benefited from more           cluding, as he notes, many archaeologists,
discussion of the Carolingian polity/polities       that the strength of the Anglo-Saxon state,
which, as is noted, was seen or used as a           even in the eleventh century, should not be
model by contemporaries (p. 15), but is it-         assumed. Different localities experienced
self the subject of debate. In the light of this,   different forms of settlement reorganisa-
it is interesting to see that a very recent ar-     tion, sometimes quite frequently.
ticle actually proposes that a Carolingian              Margarita Fernández Mier’s contribu-
king might have partly justified the need for       tion foregrounds the potential contribu-
men to perform fortification duties with ref-       tion of archaeological work focussed on
erence to English precedent rather than the         settlement patterns for understanding
other way round (MacLean, 2020: 38-39).             wider socio-political changes in Asturias
     The book’s first main section includes         (Spain). The two case study settlements
four papers on social complexity as viewed          discussed, one in an upland setting (Vi-
from the localities. Grenville Astill’s paper,      gaña), one in a wider valley (Villanueva),
“Understanding the Identities and Work-             though both still inland, show some settle-
ings of Local Societies in Early Medieval           ments being abandoned and others grow-
England, AD 800-1100”, sensibly comes               ing in the period 700 to 1200, but in dif-
first because it reviews the arguments for          ferent ways. Fernández Mier is cautious as
the impact of the state for England. Astill         to the causes of these changes, but specu-
notes the diversity of local experiences of         lates that they were not simply impositions
settlement and field reorganisation in the          by new, monastic landlords. The arguments
light of significant recorded political             presented here felt like they needed more
changes, including viking raids (and sub-           space to do them justice, particularly as
sequent Scandinavian immigrations), po-             the results presented are part of a much
litical centralisation and the Norman con-          wider project.
quest. England has often been seen as an                Alexandra Chavarría Arnau’s “The To-

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pography of Early Medieval Burials: Some                rarely, if ever, include the remains of the
Reflections on the Archaeological Evidence              buried individuals or grave goods –acidic
from Northern Italy (Fifth-Eighth Cen-                  soil conditions probably causing the human
turies)”, is quite distinct from the previous           remains to decompose completely– making
two. It shows just how much new archaeo-                archaeological dating difficult. Martín Viso
logical data there is for northern Italy, both          neatly sets out the varied nature of the ev-
for urban and rural sites. It makes a good              idence for the burial material, both in terms
case for the incredible diversity of burial             of cemetery sites and situations and ceme-
forms in northern Italy in this period being            tery layouts, which suggests these kinds of
a symptom of political upheaval and weak-               graves and the cemeteries of which many
ened political control. Written and archae-             were a part served communities at different
ological evidence suggest greater stability             scales. Here, as in some of other case stud-
before and after this period in Italy as, af-           ies, the twelfth century is witness to new
ter c. 800, it too underwent some of the                documentation recording what might be a
same processes of settlement change seen                new level of control by elites, in this case ec-
in England and the Iberian peninsula. The               clesiastical control of cemeteries in what
author is, in my view, too eager to associate           had become the Astur-Leonese political net-
the appearance of certain new kinds of fur-             work (p. 141).
nished burial with the intruding elites of the              The next section begins with Frode
Ostrogoths and, especially, the Lombards.               Iversen’s “The Thing and the King: The
The full range of archaeological evidence               Formation of the Norwegian Medieval
could be interpreted without such ready re-             Kingdom” which examines the role of as-
course to ethnic explanations, as the article           semblies in a region of south-west Nor-
otherwise demonstrates.                                 way, the Gulathing. Using later legal texts
    By contrast, ethnicity or religion are              he suggests that assemblies were gradually
barely mentioned in the next paper, Iñaki               sidelined by increasingly powerful Norwe-
Martín Viso’s study of rock-cut graves in               gian kings because of the declining num-
central-western regions of the Iberian                  bers of representatives notionally required
peninsula. It centres on a region poten-                to attend them. The archaeological evi-
tially contested by Arab/Berber rulers and              dence of local assemblies, in the form of
Christian ones, just south of the Duero                 abandoned so-called courtyard sites (small
river. Rock-cut graves are difficult to date            clusters of regularly-arranged booths) would
accurately but many in this region date to              seem to match that progressive disenfran-
the period c. 700-c.1100 and occur either               chising of the (male) population.
as isolated graves or in cemeteries com-                    Alfonso Vigil-Escalera Guirado’s paper
prising only rock-cut graves or also includ-            on “Meeting Places, Markets, and
ing cist burials, and sometimes laid out in             Churches in the Countryside between
what might have been family groupings, as               Madrid and Toledo, Central Spain (c. AD
segmented rural cemeteries. Rock-cut graves             500-900)” makes simple but effective ar-

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guments for the exchange of goods (rotary          gian rulers, and the Church. The forts did
hand querns, iron, tile and pottery), and,         not form part of a defensive system, as has
through the isotopic analysis of human             been argued. It is hard to do justice to the
skeletal material, women. It is speculated         detailed arguments set out here but, as Ten
that churches that seem to have been iso-          Harkel puts it, the forts’ significance linked
lated were in fact established at places that      to different identities existing at different
were already meeting places for multiple           scales, and varied across time (p. 257).
village communities.                                   Stuart Brookes’ and Andrew Reynolds’
    Orri Vésteinsson‘s paper is of a different     “Territoriality and Social Stratification: the
character to most of the others because it         Relationship between Neighbourhood and
considers the mindset of medieval Ice-             Polity in Anglo-Saxon England” takes a
landers in relation to Norway, a geograph-         long-term view of the roles and significance
ically remote polity of which Iceland was ar-      of boundaries and how they were marked,
guably a part. He contends that Icelandic          successively, by sentinel burials, execution
politics cannot be understood without ap-          cemeteries, and what are known as minster
preciating just how much leading Icelanders        churches. Boundaries had different roles
were involved in politics in Norway and            at different scales of political centralisation,
how much Norway involved itself in Ice-            some of which might have a relevance for
landic society, even if the king posed no          understanding weak polities in pre-indus-
real physical threat to Iceland. In his view       trial societies more generally, while others
Icelanders actually readily acquiesced in          are specific to the trajectory of early me-
the idea of Norwegian royal authority and,         dieval English history. The paper is under-
notwithstanding the issue that the written         pinned by an evolutionary model of polit-
evidence for this is twelfth-century at the        ical development, suggesting three phases
earliest, that this was the situation in the       of scaling-up of political organisation. Such
tenth century, relatively soon after the start     a view develops one of the major lines of
of the settlement of Iceland in the late ninth.    thinking about the development of Anglo-
    Letty Ten Harkel considers the roles of        Saxon kingdoms.
three circular fortifications (ringwalburgen)          Wendy Davies’ “Regions and Micro-
on the island of Walcheren in Frisia, mostly       Regions of Scribal Practice” uses an alto-
for the ninth and tenth centuries. She ar-         gether different way of getting at regional
gues that the superficial similarity in the        distinctions, specifically by using the c.
physical appearance of these forts masks           2750 surviving charters –records of prop-
differences in the local circumstances under       erty sales or ownership– of mostly tenth-
which they were built and the ways in which        century date from the whole of northern
they may have been perceived in the context        Iberia, excluding Cataluña (p. 305). Care-
of the fluctuating political and military sit-     ful analysis of charters has been a hallmark
uation involving Scandinavian raiders and          of Davies’ significant contribution to early
lords, local people, more distant Carolin-         medieval history. Here she uses variations in

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the use of certain formulaic phrases to iden-           property transactions. Ironically the exis-
tify regional scribal practices. The analysis           tence of this knowledge, Escalona suggests,
is nuanced, showing an appreciation for                 is best demonstrated when a charter is
date, provenance, location of the property              vague about boundaries; this knowledge
being exchanged, and the secular or eccle-              was in people‘s heads and only rarely writ-
siastical beneficiary. Davies suggests that             ten down.
until the mid-tenth century some regions                    The volume returns to England with
saw local scribal practice outside of monas-            Alexander James Langlands‘ “Local Places
teries which was conservative, deriving from            and Local People: Peasant Agency and the
late antique practices. [H]ereditary learned            Formatio of the Anglo-Saxon State”. Lang-
persons were likely vectors. This practice              lands gives a useful overview of the evolu-
was eventually replaced in the tenth century            tion of charters as a document type in Eng-
as monastic influence rose at the expense of            land but his main contribution is the idea
practices inherited from the Roman state.               of what he calls simply a locus. He finds ex-
    Álvaro Carvajal Castro examines char-               amples of loci which were names of rivers or
ters from León of the ninth to eleventh                 valleys which he argues are how local peo-
centuries to try to address the difficult               ple referred to the landscape rather than
question of what the word villa, or as it is            those imposed on the landscape by the
spelled here, uilla. The word clearly had di-           needs of charter writers.
verse meanings and cannot be easily de-                     All-in-all this volume is a significant
fined. The paper‘s conclusion is that it                contribution to debates about the way local
meant a unit of rent and tributary man-                 societies functioned and the way they con-
agement, in other words it was a conve-                 nected with the larger polities of which they
nient label for remote landlords to use to              were a part. It provides routes into the
conceptualise a property. It had none of the            many separate, regional historigraphies to
neat spatial, economic or legal sense we                which individual papers contribute. The
might like to see.                                      authors are keen to stress the known un-
    Given how often Julio Escalona‘s notion             knowns provided by their material, not least
of Dense Local Knowledge (DLK) is re-                   with the eternal problem of archaeological
ferred to in earlier papers, it was good to fi-         dating. Not everyone will agree with all of
nally get to read it. In “Dense Local Knowl-            it but it demonstrates the vitality of inter-
edge: Grounding Local to Supralocal                     disciplinary approaches to early medieval
Relationships in Tenth-Century Castile”                 western European history and the benefits
Escalona argues for the importance of                   of sustained, comparative approaches
DLK, this being the sort of local, collective           which overcome the limitations of national
memory of the landscape and its tenurial                historiographical traditions.
history needed for a local community to ex-
plain in writing where a plot of land was. It                                          Chris Callow
could be drawn on by non-locals making                                  University of Birmingham, UK

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REFERENCES                                              Exploring Landscape, Local Society, and the
DAVIES, W., HALSALL, G. & REYNOLDS, A. (Eds.)           World Beyond. Turnhout: Brepols.
   (2006). People and Space in the Middle Ages,     MACLEAN, S. (2020). The Edict of Pîtres, Car-
   300-1300. Turnhout: Brepols.                         olingian Defence against the Vikings, and the
ESCALONA, J. & REYNOLDS, A. (Eds.) (2011). Scale        Origins of the Medieval Castle. Transactions of
   and Scale Change in the Early Middle Ages:           the Royal Historical Society, (30), 29-54.

Rebecca J. H. Woods
The Herds Shot Round the World: Native Breeds and the British
Empire, 1800-1900
Chapel Hill, University of North Carolina Press, 2017, XIII + 233 pp.

     n The Herds Shot Round the World,

                                                        The book is structured around close
     Rebecca J. H. Woods sets out to trace          studies of sheep and cattle, in Part 1, within
     the rise and fall of British breeds of         Great Britain, and in Part 2, in the Ameri-
sheep and cattle in the long nineteenth cen-        cas and Australasia. The first three chapters
tury, to explore the concept of native types        trace how breeds which developed in par-
of these animals as it changed over time, to        ticular localities in Great Britain, often be-
understand their roles in imperial ecologies        ing given county names such as Cornish
and economies and to reveal the new                 sheep or Devon cattle and considered to be
meanings bestowed on what were viewed as            native to those places, were “improved”
heritage breeds from the 1970s. This ap-            through the eighteenth century. The aim
proach is innovative. As Woods points out,          was to meet the demands of new markets as
most studies of animals and imperialism             Britain became more urban and industrial,
operate only at the level of species, exam-         in particular for more and better quality
ining aspects of the lives and deaths of            mutton and beef. Improved breeds like the
generic cattle, sheep, pigs, or chickens. By        New Leicester Longwool, developed in the
drilling down to sub-species or breed,              eighteenth century by leading agricultural-
Woods is able to draw out the influence of          ist Robert Bakewell (1725-95), are followed
culture on how animals were redesigned to           as they were taken up across the country,
serve imperial interests, in this cleverly writ-    breaking the traditional connection between
ten account. Her explorations of native             place and type. The final two chapters ex-
breeds take her from the isolated St Kilda          amine these animals as they were exported
Islands in the North Atlantic, to the verdant       to Australasia and the Americas, demon-
fields of the English and New Zealand mid-          strating how they were managed in novel
lands to the rangelands of northern Aus-            climates and topographies to ensure that
tralia and the American West, following the         they would continue to meet the expecta-
pathways created by and for British breeds.         tions of British consumers for wool and

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meat. Sustained attention to Merino and                      Woods shows that these debates reveal
Corriedale sheep and Hereford cattle pro-               the tension at the heart of the idea of breed-
vide family histories of the breeds which of-           ing as a practice: that the very variability
fer fascinating insights into how opportuni-            which enables the creation, or improve-
ties and constraints made these particular              ment, of a breed through artificial selection
breeds dominant in specific colonies and                also means that that breed will continue to
former colonies, even though they did not               change, despite the best efforts of those
enjoy the same level of esteem in Britain.              with an interest in keeping it static. This was
    Breed was a relatively new term at the              important because the stability of a breed
beginning of the nineteenth century, used               was central to its desirability and the eco-
to denote a group of animals with particu-              nomic value of its members. The example
lar characteristics and containing the con-             of Hereford cattle, in which white faces
notation that those shared features were                and red sides were successfully entrenched
transmitted in the blood from parent to                 by the 1840s, demonstrated the value of a
offspring. Woods teases out the complexity              clear visual signal of breed, even if other
of beliefs and practices around the respec-             characteristics continued to shift. In con-
tive roles of environment (including factors            trast with this careful delineation of change
such as soil, climate, temperature, terrain,            in British breeds in the nineteenth century,
predation and competition) and heredity in              in the text almost all of the images are
making a breed, along with the anxieties of             taken from David Low’s Breeds of the Do-
contemporaries about the new “artificial”               mestic Animals of the British Islands and
breeds they created. Desirable characteris-             show the animals as they were portrayed in
tics like early maturity or fine wool could be          a single year, 1842 (this date must be
developed through cross breeding followed               sought in the bibliography), rather than
by in-breeding, but could they be fixed                 capturing change over time.
through the generations or would the breed                   Demonstrating the book’s wider signif-
need constantly to be topped up with in-                icance, Woods suggests that the attention to
puts from the originating types in order to             breed in sheep and cattle can be read in
avoid degeneration? If the highly valued                parallel with emerging ideas of race in the
features of local breeds emanated from                  English speaking world of the nineteenth
their experience of place, expressed in the             century. She emphasises that the term na-
maxim that every soil has its stock (p. 30),            tive when applied to particular breeds was
would they be lost if these animals were                not done innocently but always had a po-
reared in new locations? Woods does not at-             litical dimension. What it meant to be na-
tempt to provide definitive answers to these            tive varied over time and place, and ac-
questions, but reports on contemporary                  cording to who stood to gain from a beast
discussions, in which equally adamant pro-              being considered native or non-native.
ponents of contrary views gave their opin-              Early in the period, the concept of native-
ions, based on their practical experience.              ness was deployed in Britain to refer to the

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livestock of a place which were understood        tity posed by waves of immigration from
to have been created there by nature and          the former Empire, the protection of her-
were more or less ripe for human interven-        itage breeds formalised in the Rare Breeds
tion to improve them. In contrast, in the         Survival Trust (est. 1973) allowed for an
new worlds, native was applied to carefully       open discussion of the sense of loss and
designed new breeds. Woods takes up the           nostalgia for earlier forms of Britishness
example of the Corriedale sheep developed         which were not permitted with regard to
in New Zealand from the 1870s, consid-            humans. That the Trust was established in
ered a native although their forebears had        the same year as Britain’s entry into the Eu-
arrived just decades earlier, and included        ropean Economic Community opens the
the Merino, which was suspect in Britain          possibility that it could also be a reaction to
because of its Spanish ancestry. Hereford         concerns raised by the increasing domi-
cattle were so changed while living in            nance of continental breeds such as Hol-
northern Australia and western North              steins and Limousins which Woods shows
America as to be referred to as native. Sig-      were favoured from the mid twentieth cen-
nificantly, these “native” animals (as well as    tury for their suitability to intensive, high
other introduced breeds) played a key role        yield production of milk and meat.
in displacing the true natives, the original          Reading this book from the position of
human and non-human inhabitants of the            an animal-human historian, while animals
Americas and Australasia.                         were mentioned on each page, I found it to
    While in some settings, the term native       be primarily a cultural history. Woods did
was reserved for First Nations peoples, in        not aim to convey the animal experience of
others, including Australia, it was appro-        being part of a breed chosen to feed or
priated by settler colonists, as in the 1870      clothe an empire, but she did show how re-
Australian Natives Association. Woods             vealing dealings with animals can be of the
demonstrates how attitudes to nativeness in       nature of society. Class was a factor in the
animals were entangled with similar ideas         development and adoption of particular
about humans. Just as some believed that          breeds, with endorsement from the landed
changes in exported British breeds in new         gentry providing higher standing to breeds
locations inevitably meant deterioration,         such as the Merino sheep, but not being
there was also a concern that adaptations to      sufficient to ensure its widespread adoption
place led to a loss of esteemed British qual-     in Britain or the acceptability of its meat.
ities in human emigrants and their descen-        Technology is also granted its role, with
dants, even a “creolisation” paralleling the      perhaps my favourite section being on how
mongrelisation feared by animal breeders,         steamships with onboard refrigeration cre-
if mixing with other peoples occurred.            ated temporal proximity, which enabled dis-
Jumping ahead to the late twentieth cen-          tant producers to bring their animals’ meat
tury, Woods suggests that in a context of a       to the British market, with particular at-
perceived threat to the British cultural iden-    tention to New Zealand lamb and mutton.

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Even simple innovations, such as the use of             tion with regard to the centrality of meat,
barbed wire for fencing in the American                 they do not reflect the national diet in the
west in the late 1880s, are shown to have               nineteenth century, studies of which have
their impact in permitting greater control of           shown that the regular consumption of
the contact between cows and bulls, allow-              meat remained out of reach of much of the
ing for more strategic breeding.                        working class. Woods attributes enormous
    There are some assertions made in the               power to these British meat consumers,
book which needed tempering or addi-                    arguing that their tastes shaped sheep and
tional support. Woods opens by saying that              cattle breeds elsewhere. This seems likely
British breeds had conquered the world by               for New Zealand, still a colony with all of
the end of the nineteenth century, then re-             the British investment this implied and
fines this to include only the now developed            where, as Woods states, there was only a
world (p. 4). The claim is then further lim-            small local market. But even there, al-
ited to indicate that she treats only the An-           though Woods prefers to emphasise taste
glo neo-Europes where British breeds                    and culture rather than economics, she
could thrive (p. 15), rendering their domi-             credits the New Zealand and Australian
nance a foregone conclusion. There were                 Land Company with developing the Cor-
many parts of the British world where                   riedale sheep. Based in Edinburgh and with
British breeds were unviable because of cli-            Scottish principals, their decisions were
mate, disease and pests and others beyond               more likely based on profit than any other
it where they were not given a warm wel-                motive. That British tastes informed deci-
come because of the same ties of tradition              sion making by the American beef industry
and familiarity Woods traces for the British            is a greater stretch, with their home market
world, as readers of this journal would be              of 76 million by 1900, compared with un-
well aware.                                             der 40 million in the United Kingdom.
    Another underpinning assumption of                  Britain was an important market for the
the book is that the British were particu-              United States –Specht (2019: 130) reports
larly large and discerning consumers of                 that 50 million pounds of beef was ex-
meat, and that this was an essential aspect             ported to Britain in the late 1870s– but as
of the national identity. This sets up such             with the overall level and distribution of
an unwavering focus on meat that Woods                  meat consumption, some statistics on the
states that when refrigeration enabled the              trade and analyses of them were needed
export of meat, the British Empire was re-              rather than just scattered individual asser-
cast as a vast apparatus for feeding Britain            tions. While agricultural gazettes, mem-
(p. 6), overlooking the key role of imperial            oires and handbooks have been thoroughly
foodstuffs from fish to grain to sugar in               harvested to capture the ideas in circula-
feeding Britain over previous centuries.                tion, secondary sources which would pro-
While Woods was able to provide many                    vide context for these particulars could
contemporary claims to support her posi-                have been better used.

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  Overall, The Herds Shot Round the               and will be a very useful reference for oth-
World is a valuable addition to the small but     ers seeking to explore the hoof-soldiers in the
growing body of historical writing on the         great agropastoral expansion of the British
emergence of the global meat industry in          Empire (p. 3).
the nineteenth century. Its particular con-
tributions are to recognising the impor-                                              Nancy Cushing
tance of breed in this process, and to un-                         orcid.org/0000-0003-1204-9840
packing the politics around the use of the                         University of Newcastle, Australia
term native, as it was deployed to deni-
grate animal types as archaic, to use them        REFERENCES
to make claims on new territory and fi-           SPECHT, J. (2019). Red Meat Republic: A Hoof-to-
nally to assert an organic connection to              Table History of How Beef Changed America.
place tinged with nostalgia. Woods’ work              Princeton: Princeton University Press.
constitutes a significant advance in the field

Eve E. Buckley
Technocrats and the Politics of Drought and Development in
Twentieth-Century Brazil
Chapel Hill, University of North Carolina Press, 2017, 280 pp.

         he acclaimed book Technocrats

                                                  from it, passing through the creation of a
         and the Politics of Drought and          government agency specifically to mitigate
         Development in Twentieth-Century         its effects, the Inspetoria de Obras Contra
Brazil, from the specialist in the history of     as Secas (Federal Inspectorate for Works to
science, medicine, and health, with em-           Combat Droughts, IOCS) in 1909, and
phasis on Brazil, Eve Buckley, seeks to dis-      concludes with the 1960s and the civil-
cuss how the state bureaucracy has instru-        military coup, a moment of political-social
mentalized scientific discourse in response       rupture that brought other challenges to
to the social problems of northeastern            Brazilian society. The narrative of changes
Brazil, and to what extent science can be a       in this organization is the thread that leads
solution for the miseries of this impover-        to the investigation of how positivist and
ished region.                                     scientific agendas passed through the state’s
    The starting point of her work is the         sieve, which coordinated the actions of the
Great Drought (1877-79), which, due to its        men of science, the technocrats, in this
severity, brought the topic of drought into       modernization process. Therefore the
the national debate for the first time. It ad-    northeastern area, the so-called sertão, was
dresses the Brazilian northeastern climatic       a frontier and a target for the nascent re-
instability and the social problems resulting     public’s projects.

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    In the first chapter, “Climate and Cul-             military status as if they were noble titles. At
ture: Constructing Sertanejo Marginality in             the center of this characterization is the
Modern Brazil”, the author analyzes the in-             question about the nature of drought: was
tersections between the climate of the                  it a natural or social phenomenon? The an-
sertão and its culture, investigating how the           swer to this question given by the Brazilian
discourse of marginality and poverty con-               state was that it was a natural phenomenon.
cerning its populations, the sertanejos, was            Consequently, it could be solved through
built. Her work brings together information             science without any change in social strat-
about the great droughts, specific climatic             ification, and that is where the root of the
and ethnic data, and local culture; offering            problem addressed by Buckley lies. How-
the reader information about novels, pop-               ever, if drought can be solved with mod-
ular music, and poetry, placing the figure of           ernizing initiatives, why has the cycle of
the northeastern man and his attachment                 poverty been perpetuated? The key is her
to the land even in situations of scarcity and          analysis of the federal organ, the IOCS,
hunger at the center of attention. The                  and professionals involved in attempts to
paradox between coastal elites and the im-              mitigate the effects of droughts in the
poverished sertanejos takes shape in the dis-           sertão, in a narrative that brings together
cussions of racial whitening and modern-                sanitarians, engineers, agronomists and
ization of the country at the turn of the               economists, the intersection of natural and
twentieth century, together with the begin-             social factors that conspired to marginalize
ning of the republic. This adds a new layer             the sertão’s landless poor in negotiations for
to the stereotypical view of the sertão peo-            state and environmental resources (p. 44).
ples as obstacles to modernity and the an-                  In the second chapter, the author in-
titheses of the project for the future envi-            vestigates the speeches of the sanitary doc-
sioned by the dominant strata of society.               tors about the sertão, with emphasis on
The sertão was conceived as culturally and              Belisário Penna and Wickliffe Rose, of the
climatically doomed.                                    Rockefeller Foundation. These researchers
    Buckley’s analysis then moves on to the             disagreed about the degree to which race
literature and impressions that Euclides da             was a determining factor in the region’s
Cunha’s book Os Sertões printed on                      underdevelopment. Penna argued in favor
Canudos and the sertanejos episode to again             of a public health project to reduce the gulf
take up social-political analyses of the coro-          between levels of society and the redistri-
nelismo phenomenon and how this system                  bution of land encamped by the state,
perpetuated inequalities in northeastern                claiming that disease was not purely a bio-
society. Coronelismo is a system perpetu-               logical fact but rather a reflection of social
ated by the elites; the powerful men were               evils that made the impoverished sertanejos
then named coronéis, reminiscent of the                 more vulnerable. Rose, conversely, pointed
Guarda Nacional Imperial (Imperial Na-                  to racial explanations for regional differ-
tional Guard) that awarded local oligarchs              ences in the country. For him, poverty and

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backwardness were directly related to color,      changes in sertanejos’s working regime. The
so the state should favor immigration of          sertão population was then perceived by
Europeans for whitening, instead of pro-          the organ and its professionals as partisans
moting a project aimed at the mixed-race          of the law of minimum work and unwilling
populations of the sertão.                        to change during the rainy season. How-
    Chapter three brings up the proposals of      ever, funds for irrigation initiatives were
engineers to deal with the problem of             not as large as they should have been, as the
drought. Buckley argues that the main ini-        independence of the sertanejos and the dis-
tiative of these professionals was linked to      tribution of small properties threatened the
the construction of dams to accumulate            domination of the coronéis and large
rainwater that would be used in episodes of       landowners; they were also members of the
drought. However, instead of improving            political elite and therefore blocked these
the lives of the sertanejo, the author points     enterprises. In the end, there was a double
out that these projects concentrated even         resistance to change, both from the ser-
more power in the hands of local oli-             tanejos who opposed attempts to imple-
garchies, which had even more land and            ment irrigated farming and intensive culti-
water resources. The response of engineers        vation, and from the elites who barred
to the sertanejo region’s problems did not        attempts to redistribute land, so the re-
touch the power structure of society; they        sponses of agronomists to the problems of
did not confront the current order and thus       the sertão did not have the success or the
contributed to strengthening it. In order to      expected acceptance. The hegemony of the
maintain political elites’ support for the        agronomists was not uncontested, there
drought agency, the power game did not al-        was still a dispute between engineers and
low engineers to propose initiatives that         agronomists. Nevertheless, the result of the
would inconvenience the local coronéis.           battle was already given beforehand by the
There is also the profession’s intrinsic ques-    leading engineers, advancing in the engi-
tion, with reservoirs and roads at the cen-       neering works as the first response to the
ter of the discussion. This framing makes         drought problems.
engineers the professionals, par excellence,          Chapter six deals with economists’ in-
best suited to solving these problems. Still,     terpretation of the issue, thus Celso Fur-
if social injustices were placed at the fore,     tado and his proposals for reparation of
their activities would consequently be of         historical social injustices that relegated
secondary importance.                             poverty and helplessness to the sertanejo.
    In the early 1940s, engineers lost their      The focus then shifted from building dams
hegemony in the organ, and agronomists            or establishing irrigated settlements to in-
took their place; that is the theme of chap-      dustrialization. For the economist, the most
ters four and five. The author analyzes ini-      viable way to correct regional asymmetries
tiatives such as the creation of irrigated        was industrialization in the Northeast,
colonies and attempts to implement                which would offer new employment op-

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portunities and regional balance in the                 from the vulnerability of the sertanejos. Un-
country. However, the project was not car-              fortunately, the situation has not changed
ried out; Furtado’s plans were mowed                    in recent decades. Brazil’s political class
down before they were realized, interrupted             has declaredly concentrated between two
by the civil-military coup of 1964.                     and four million hectares of land in the
     It is interesting to point out that, besides       country (Castilho, 2012). Power and land
presenting an analysis of technocrats and               have an intimate relationship that has been
policies concerning the drought, the au-                perpetuated for centuries in Brazil.
thor demonstrates how the sertão and the
sertanejo were portrayed in novels, songs,                                               Patricia Aranha
and anecdotes. The research on the ser-                                 orcid.org/0000-0003-3344-2051
tanejo culture blends closely with the po-                              Universidade de São Paulo, Brasil
litical discourse and initiatives of profes-                Adam Mickiewicz University, Poznan, Poland
sionals dealing with the mitigation of the
drought effects. Thus, even the reader not              REFERENCES
versed in the culture of this region has a              CASTILHO, A. L. (2012). Partido da Terra: como os
complete idea of how national interpreta-                   políticos conquistam o território brasileiro. São
tions of the sertão affected public policy                  Paulo: Contexto.
and vice versa.                                         CUNHA, E. DA (1902). Os Sertões. Rio de Janeiro:
     When reading the book, the popular                     Laemmert.
saying the road to hell is paved with good in-
tentions always springs to mind. Sanitarians,
engineers, agronomists, and economists
generally had a genuine desire to improve
the living conditions of the sertanejos. How-
ever, they were barred by the bond be-
tween social stratification, politics and land
ownership, the profound social inequali-
ties, and interests linked to their social class
and profession. After all, these men of sci-
ence were distant from the impoverished
population of the sertão. Science could un-
doubtedly have beneficial effects for the
improvement of life, but removing its po-
litical character also emptied its potential.
Buckley’s analysis ends up highlighting that
drought, more than a climatic or natural
fact, was a political project to maintain the
power of local oligarchies, which profited

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Kristy Leissle
Medford, Polity Press, 2018, 228 pp.

          his book offers a comprehensive          ney from an isolated Mesoamerican crop to
          overview of the cocoa and choco-         one of the globe’s most heavily traded com-
          late trade. By combining fifteen         modities. The first section discusses co-
years of personal research and fieldwork,          coa’s early history and relies on the writings
with a wide sampling of multidisciplinary          of previous studies like Clarence-Smith
scholarship and critical insight into the in-      (2000), and Coe and Coe (2013). Building
dustry itself, Leissle has crafted a masterful     of these scholars, Leissle describes how co-
narrative that explores the history, socio-        coa’s taste, preparation, consumption, and
politics, economics and science behind one         religious, economic and social meanings
of the world’s most beloved, and at times          were forever altered once the beans en-
controversial, commodities. Leissle’s cen-         tered European society. The chapter also
tral purpose is to take a close look at power      provides detail about the rise of bulk in-
relationships […] across the supply chain to       dustrial processing, and how the creation of
show that neither “global” nor “cocoa”, nor        chocolate candy in the nineteenth century
“trade” has a sole definition or meaning (p.       led to the further alienation of cocoa from
2). Building on this theme, the book’s eight       its geographic and social origins. Finally,
chapters collectively argue that commodity         Leissle explains how Europe’s increasing
markets are not simply value-neutral eco-          demand for cocoa and desire for cheap
nomic channels through which raw mate-             market prices fostered rapid cultivation in
rials pass; but also socially constructed en-      West Africa during the late nineteenth and
tities that reflect and shape hierarchies,         twentieth centuries. Here Leissle’s personal
norms, and identities on issues like gender,       connections, and professional knowledge,
race, age, class, nationality and ethnicity        regarding Ghana and the Ivory Coast, al-
(p. 3). The book is largely successfully in ac-    low her to daftly unpack the ways that co-
complishing these ambitious goals due to           coa altered nearly every aspect of these so-
Leissle’s thought-provoking questions on           cieties (patterns of land distribution, labor
several micro and macro level topics in-           practices, gender relationships, business
cluding the crop’s Mesoamerican origins,           transactions, etc). In sum, this chapter
imperial legacies, child labor, farmer             shows how historical events shifted and so-
poverty, grinding monopolies, genetics,            lidified cocoa’s status from a culturally sig-
market liberalization, environmental sus-          nificant object in its own rite to a raw ma-
tainably and Fairtrade, organic, and flavor        terial primarily associated with industrial
certifications.                                    chocolate production.
    Chapter two (which follows the intro-              Chapters three examines both historical
duction) examines cocoa’s historical jour-         and contemporary factors that help us un-

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derstand why […] cocoa exporting countries              chocolate goods, is a vital process in the
–and the farmers within them– have been                 supply chain, but that the companies in-
alienated from the processes that turns cocoa           volved are relatively unknown outside of
[…] into chocolate (p. 47). Here Leissle un-            the industry. She then proceeds to build a
packs the expensive, complex and multi-                 convincing argument that the invisible sta-
stage process needed to prepare cocoa for               tus of these grinders is part of a deliberate
chocolate manufacture; and how inconsis-                strategy to avoid public criticisms over con-
tences can create anomalies in color, flavor,           troversies like child labor or farmer poverty,
and texture that reduce market value or                 while also remaining true power players in
consumer appeal. The chapter also dis-                  the trade (p. 76). This chapter also shows
cusses the colonial origins of tariffs and              how weather patterns, military conflicts,
taxes and how they continue to impact the               futures trading, and even unexpected
geography of value addition and industrial              events like Brexit, influence yearly cocoa
manufacturing. Indeed, Leissle suggests                 supply and demand, and by proxy market
that much of the contemporary spatial con-              prices. Finally, Leissle turns to her own re-
figuration of cocoa processing is the con-              search in West Africa and the outcome of
sequence of lingering imperial power dy-                market liberalization on prices and trading
namics, which initially sought to keep raw              patterns. In particular, she compares the
material production in the colonies and                 neighboring countries of Cote d’Ivoire (a
value-adding industrial processes within                fully liberalized market with naked global
the metropole.                                          prices), and Ghana (a partially liberalized
    Chapter four continues to examine the               market with Government subsidized fixed
intricate systems that enable so few com-               prices). Through this comparative discus-
panies to control most of the industry by               sion of two of the world’s largest cocoa
pointing out that no force operates in a vac-           producing nations, Leissle reveals several
uum (p. 72). To contextualize this point,               emergent consequences. One of the more
Leissle discusses the branding techniques               fascinating results is the way that smug-
of Mars, Mondelez, Ferrero, Nestle and                  gling patterns change from year to year de-
Hershey. She argues that over time these                pending on the prices available in each
companies have used creative and distinct               country.
packaging, shapes, colors and flavors to                    In chapter five the book shifts its focus
create ubiquity between their products and              to examine the impact that trading prac-
chocolate itself in the minds of consumers.             tices have on farmers’ everyday lives, or
Moreover, the chapter exposes the near                  what Leissle calls economics on the ground
monopolization of cocoa grinding by three               (p. 102). The exploration in this chapter is
major companies (Barry Callebaut, Cargill               one of the book’s most important and in-
and Olam). Leissle writes that grinding,                teresting contributions to the field. The key
which produces the cocoa liquors, pow-                  idea is that generalizations about average
ders, and butters used to make finished                 cocoa farmers simply do not reflect or ex-

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ist in reality (p. 102). Instead, Leissle argues    other market forces and players that are of-
for a vision of producer communities that           ten equally to blame. Instead, Leissle seeks
take into account unique socio-spatial lo-          long-term, holistic reforms, that consider
cations and conditions. These factors in-           how a wide range of issues, from colonial
clude everything from cultural values and           legacies, to the complexity of farming com-
practices, to the use of familial labor, sea-       munities, to consumer demands for cheaper
sonal weather conditions at the time of har-        and more abundant access to chocolate, all
vest, the quality of drying and fermenta-           contribute to the conditions that breed un-
tion, the level of national liberalization, and     free child labor in the first place. Moreover,
the manipulation of regional prices by pow-         by using anthropologist Amanda Berlan’s
erful industry players. Given these com-            extensive interviews with children in West
plex and varied situations, Leissle suggests,       African cocoa production (Berlan, 2013),
that cocoa’s market price should move               Leissle is able to show that the actual num-
away from western-centric reductionist cal-         ber of unfree child laborers is frequently ex-
culations toward a system that accounts             aggerated by journalists seeking to write
for multiple non-monetary inputs as well.           sensationalized accounts. Here again,
To further prove her point, Leissle once            Leissle warns that there are no simple an-
again includes her personal experiences             swers to this complex dilemma, but that if
with West African farmers, including inter-         any real progress is to be made, we must
views she conducted with Ghanaians. In              first learn to differentiate between children
particular, her discussion on the ways that         working of their own accord, or within their
gendered patterns of labor disproportion-           extended family structures, and those actu-
ately disadvantage women in the industry,           ally being illegally trafficked. The remainder
is a sobering but important subject.                of this chapter explores the different ways
     Chapter six continues to focus on farm-        that free-trade, Fairtrade, and direct trade
ing communities through an analysis of four         either contribute or lessen our ability to
specific terms surrounding trade justice:           fight trade injustices. The discussion of each
unfree labor, free trade, Fairtrade, and direct     of these terms, which address the compli-
trade. In keeping with the theme of the             cated impact they have on farming com-
book, Leissle not only defines these terms,         munities, should be mandatory reading for
but also historizes and complicates their           anyone studying cocoa, or other globally
perceived benefits for producers. A partic-         traded commodities for that matter.
ular bright spot in this thought-provoking              Chapter seven focuses on the history of
chapter, is the discussion on Western Media         cocoa classifications and genetics, as well
portrayals of child labor in Africa. Leissle ar-    as the modern politics of single origin, fla-
gues that such coverage is often too sim-           vor and fermentation certifications. The
plistic, which creates dichotomous images           chapter begins with a section on cocoa’s
of powerful chocolate manufactures profit-          initial division by the Spanish into three
ing off of slave children, while ignoring           categories (Carrillo, Forastero, and Trini-

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tario); and, how they eventually led to sep-            doubles as a conclusion that ties the
arate bulk/flavor bean trades. After this in-           books themes of complexity, account-
sightful lesson, Leissle discusses the largely          ability, and connectivity with a call for
symbolic status of these categories today,              continued reform moving forward. Over-
and how more nuanced classifications are                all, Leissle argues that true sustainability
being developed. For example, one genetic               in the cocoa trade will require every actor
study examined 1,000 cocoa trees and de-                in the industry [to] convey [...] that all
termined ten distinct genetic clusters and              types of labor deserve attention and ap-
thirty-six sub-clusters with five or more               propriate compensation [...] [and] the
specimens (p. 165). This chapter also high-             highest possible value on cocoa at every
lights the recent popularity of single origin           step, from seed to taste bud (p. 188).
cocoa, flavor certification, and the growing                The only real weakness I found in the
craft chocolate industry. On the positive               book is, in fact, tied very closely to its
side, Leissle suggests that these initiatives           strength –unpacking how each step of co-
invite shoppers to consider the socio-ge-               coa’s massive commodity chain impacts a
ography of cocoa politics and economics;                broad spectrum of societal elements, across
while also, providing significantly higher              multivariant cultural, economic, sociopo-
premiums to farmers who are able to qual-               litical and geographic spaces. While this
ify for origin and flavor certification. Yet,           massive undertaking makes for a com-
Leissle is also quick to note the limited               pelling read, at times the book can also
scope of these initiatives, due to the small            move rather quickly from topic to topic as
size of most craft companies, and various               a result. This is not to suggest that the text
political and corporate manipulations that              feels incomplete; but rather, that there were
keep many farming communities from                      moments where I wanted to know more
meeting origin or flavor standards, regard-             about the content in a certain chapter. For-
less of the quality of their beans. In partic-          tunately, Leissle has pre-emptied my desire
ular she argues that Ghanaian farmers, de-              for more depth, by including a ten-page
spite producing high quality and uniquely               “selected readings” section. Beyond simply
flavored beans for over a century, have                 listing influential titles, Leissle also de-
been largely excluded as a result of push-              scribes their importance to her own work
back from bulk buyers, who want African                 and place within the larger field. As a
cocoa prices to remain inexpensive.                     scholar with research connections to cocoa
Leissle’s contributions in this chapter are             and chocolate myself, I was impressed with
highly relevant and particularly valuable               the comprehensive and multidisciplinary
given the newness, and growing impact, of               nature of this list, which acts as the perfect
single-origin and craft chocolate on the                companion for the fast-paced nature of the
overall industry.                                       chapters themselves. I will definitely be us-
    The final chapter addresses the future              ing this resource for years to come in my
of cocoa sustainability. This short chapter             own work.

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    In sum, Cocoa is an informative and         the relationship between markets, politics,
engaging study that is both complex and         social dynamics and commodity trading.
deeply reflective of the ways that cocoa and
chocolate impact everyone connected with                                              Ryan Minor
the trade, from farmers, to major manu-                          orcid.org/0000-0002-7230-5458
factures, to consumers, to the author her-          University of California, Santa Barbara, USA
self. Moreover, given Leissle’s expert, yet
equally inviting tone, the book has appeal      REFERENCES
for a wide range of audiences (specialists,     BERLAN, A. (2013). Social Sustainability in Agri-
scholars, students, industry professionals,         culture: An Anthropological Perspective on
and the general public). Finally, given its         Child Labour in Cocoa Production in
multi-disciplinary approach, comprehen-             Ghana, Journal of Development Studies, 49
sive content matter, and surprisingly con-          (8), 1088-1100.
cise format (just over 200 pages in length),    CLARENCE-SMITH, W. G. (2000). Cocoa and
this book is ideal for graduate and under-          Chocolate, 1765-1914. London: Routledge.
graduate courses, across the social science     COE, S. D. & COE, M. D (2013). The True History of
and humanities, that seek a text to unpack          Chocolate. 3rd ed. London: Thames & Hudson.

Juri Auderset and Peter Moser
Die Agrarfrage in der Industriegesellschaft: Wissenskulturen,
Machtverhältnisse und natürliche Ressourcen in der agrarisch-
industriellen Wissensgesellschaft (1850-1950)
Köln, Böhlau, 2018, 341 pp.

         he agrarian question, debated so

                                                ants into farmers. The authors identify
         intensely ever since the late nine-    agents, institutions and concepts in the de-
         teenth century, continues to en-       bates over agriculture, and argue that the
gage scholars trying to explain how one of      production of knowledge –not technology
the most dramatic societal transformations      or economic emergencies– lay at the root
–the shift from an agricultural to an in-       of the revolution in agriculture.
dustrial society– took place across Europe          In this densely written and carefully re-
without major political and social unrest.      searched study, Moser and Auderset ex-
Juri Auderset and Peter Moser’s examina-        amine the transformation of agrarian soci-
tion of the production of agricultural-in-      eties into industrial states in regard to the
dustrial knowledge from 1850-1950 fills a       production and transfer of knowledge. The
gap in our understanding of said process,       study focuses on Switzerland, but the pro-
exemplified by the transformation of peas-      cess can be applied with some variation to

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other European countries as they devel-                 torization and mechanization of farm labor,
oped their industrial economies. The book               advances in plant-breeding and the intro-
covers the period from roughly 1850-1950.               duction of new reproductive technologies as
In the 1850s, discussions first emerged                 it relates to animal breeding. The book’s
about the backwardness of agrarian society              structure follows a chronological under-
and the need for industrialization and                  standing of the transformation, since one
modernization. Around the turn of the                   change led to the other: improved book
century, actors and discussants agreed that             keeping enabled the modernization of farm
agriculture followed its own laws and re-               labor, which in turn allowed for increased
quired special protection. By the 1950s,                profits and the investment in farm machin-
however, the discussion took yet another                ery. Discoveries and debates in the field of
turn. Spurred by a dramatic increase in                 genetics around the turn of the century led
productivity, the era of industrialized agri-           to experimentation in plant research and
culture posed new environmental and so-                 breakthroughs in animal breeding.
cial problems that needed to be addressed.                  Chapter one focuses on farm manage-
For the history of agricultural-industrial              ment as the introduction of book keeping
knowledge the late 1950s thus represent a               required and produced statistical data on
turning point. The authors’ periodization is            farm work and production. Accounting
convincing and goes beyond the more fa-                 provided a new mathematical language to
miliar markers such as the agrarian crisis in           describe agriculture and allowed others to
the late 1870s, the accelerated economic                measure, understand and compare farm
transformation after Second World War or                work in an increasingly urban and indus-
the beginning of a new European unified                 trial society. Numbers (not narratives) now
approach to agricultural policy in the late             told the story of agricultural production
1950s. With an eye on Switzerland, the                  and, as its actors quickly realized, also con-
study looks at the actors of transformation,            structed agrarian realities, forcing actors
at institutions and practices over time. The            to adopt a calculative mentality. Profit mar-
establishment of schools, rural associations            gins instead of the sustenance of the fam-
and interest groups in addition to the work             ily unit started to define agricultural work,
of scientists and the agency of local and               even though both concepts continued to
state players shaped the larger economic                coexist in the rural world throughout the
transformation, a change that would not                 nineteenth century. Moser and Auderset
have happened without the advances of a                 argue briefly yet convincingly that because
knowledge society.                                      of the new separation of the home economy
    Audersen and Moser divide the history               from the farm economy, of consumption
of agrarian-industrial knowledge into four              and production, the role of farm women
chapters each tracing one major aspect of               and their contributions to the family econ-
the transformation: the beginning of book               omy became increasingly marginalized in
keeping and farm management, the mo-                    industrial society, a major change in the

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