Nearly twenty years have
elapsed since the third edition of The Book of the Farm was prepared. In
that comparatively short period of time British agriculture has
undergone a striking change. It has seen its highest point in prosperity
and almost its lowest in depression. Since the disastrously wet and
sunless year of 1879, bad seasons have in themselves swept away a vast
amount of farming capital. Foreign countries, with virgin soil and cheap
labour, have flooded our open ports with meat and bread-stuffs; and, in
spite of a largely increased population and much greater purchasing
power on the part of the consuming public, the prices of nearly all
varieties of farm produce have greatly declined.
How serious is the
influence which these great movements have exercised upon our beloved
country cannot readily be conceived. What they have signified to the
farming community itself has, alas ! been only too clearly visible. How
fundamentally the fabric of British agriculture has been affected will
be best understood by a consideration of the figures which represent the
movements in imports and prices of agricultural produce, as well as the
variations in the cropping and stocking of British farms.
The value of the imports
of agricultural produce had grown in 188710 the formidable figure of
£117,019,064, rather more than 48½, millions sterling in excess of the
sum sent abroad for these commodities twenty-one years ago. Reckoned per
head of population, the imports now amount to £3, 3s. 9d. for every man,
woman, and child in the United Kingdom, or nearly 18s. 6d. per head more
than in 1866. And the growth in quantities has been greater than in the
value of the imports by from 25 to 30 per cent.
With such a vastly
increased volume of foreign competition as these figures exhibit, the
prices of farm produce in British markets could not fail to have
suffered decline. The falling off in prices has indeed been very great,
and it has extended in less or greater extent to almost every article
produced on British farms.
It has been greatest in
grain, greatest of all in wheat. From about 50s. per quarter in 1866
wheat fell to 31s. in 1887. In the same period barley lost us. and oats
8s. per quarter. Wool has fallen from 1s. 9d. to from 10d. to 1s. per
The prices of beef and
mutton have had many "ups" and "downs" since 1866. They are now (October
1888) not much below the level they presented then, but are from 15 to
25 per cent below the high range of prices attained between 1870 and
In sympathy with these
alterations in prices, the systems of cropping and general farm
management pursued throughout the United Kingdom have naturally
undergone, and are still undergoing, considerable modification.
In the extent of
cultivated land—arable land and permanent pasture — there has been a
substantial increase in the past twenty years,—no less than 2,870,714
acres in Great Britain. But, as the result of the depression, as many as
833,393 acres have in twenty years gone from regular tillage into
Looking more narrowly
into the division of the arable land amongst the various crops, we find
that the past twenty years have introduced changes which axe even more
significant. The com crops have lost ground considerably, falling from
about 52 per cent of the arable land in 1S67 to about 48 per cent in
1887. Green crops and grasses have both grown in proportionate extent
—the former by about 7 and the latter by 58 acres in every 1000 acres of
arable land. But the most notable change occurs in the area of bare
fallow, which has fallen off by nearly 50 per cent. In Ireland similar
movements have taken place.
In the relative positions
of the individual crops in regard to acreage, the. past twenty years
have effected some significant changes. Amongst cereals, wheat has had
to yield the premier position to oats. Barley has been nearly
stationary. Beans have declined by nearly 30 per cent. Turnips are
losing ground, potatoes gaining a little. The former is still, of
course, by far the most extensively grown of the green crops. Mangels
have increased by about 50 per cent.
It is thus obvious that
corn-growing has lost its supremacy in the agricultural interests of
this country. Increased reliance is placed upon live stock; and although
this industry has not escaped the vicissitudes of the recent depression,
it has nevertheless made substantial progress during the past twenty
years. The progress in that period has not been continuous, and it has
not extended to all varieties of farm live stock; yet the national
wealth in the live stock of the farm is very much greater now than it
was prior to 1870.
Since 1867 the stock of
cattle in Great Britain has increased by nearly million head, and in
Ireland by about half a million head. Curiously enough, the stock of
sheep has in the same period fallen off by nearly 3 million head in
Great Britain and l]/i million head in Ireland. Somehow pig-rearing,
although when well conducted it is notoriously profitable, does not find
favour with the majority of British farmers, and their stock of pigs has
decreased by more than half a million head in the past twenty years.
Irish farmers are more kindly disposed towards the pig, and their stock
has increased substantially since 1867. Despite the prediction that the
steam-engine would tend to supplant horse-labour, the demand for
draught-horses is now greater than ever. The stock of horses is larger
than it was twenty years ago; yet it is undoubted that the breeding of
horses might be extended with profitable results.
circumstances thus briefly indicated have produced something like a
revolution in the position and prospects of the British farmer. He can
no longer be the easy independent waiter upon Providence that he used to
be when wheat was at 50s. per quarter. His life must be a struggle for
existence, and he must prepare himself with a scientific and technical
knowledge of his work in all its details and departments; must acquaint
himself with the latest ideas of the practical and scientific
agriculturist, and test them by his own experience and possibilities;
and must cast around him in search of information as to how he can make
the most of the altered condition of things. It is by knowledge combined
with experience that the farmer of the future must make his way. The
State has begun to appreciate this fact by establishing means of
providing agricultural instruction. But the practical farmer requires
more full and special sources of information,—a work which he can with
profit make the subject of general study, and which he can with
confidence refer to at any moment when he is in want of advice. Such a
work, it is hoped, The Book of the Farm in its new and enlarged form
will prove to be.
In the preparation of
this the Fourth Edition of The Book of the Farm, the important changes
of the past twenty years have been carefully and anxiously considered.
To a largo extent the work has been rewritten; what remains of the
original text has been carefully revised.
Alike in providing the
new matter and in revising the old, the great object aimed at has been
to adapt the work to the altered and still shifting circumstances and
surroundings of the British farmer. Without neglecting, or turning our
back upon, any of the branches of fanning which may perhaps be of
comparatively less importance than in former times, we have devoted more
attention than was given in previous editions to some other interests
which have risen in the scale of importance. Prominent amongst these
latter is the great subject of stock-rearing, notably the breeding and
feeding of cattle. The portions in the new edition relating to this
branch of farming consist almost entirely of fresh matter; and so
important is it considered, that it has been dealt with more fully and
more exhaustively than has ever before been attempted.
Scientific and practical
research have thrown fresh light upon the fundamental processes of
maintaining the fertility of the soil. An entirely new chapter places
the reader in possession of this extended and corrected experience. The
system of ensilage, the latest agricultural innovation, and the
extension of dairy farming, have received due attention. Every
modification and development of great or minor importance, every new or
extended influence affecting agriculture, has had careful consideration.
A full history and description of all the varieties of British horses,
cattle, sheep, and swine also form a new feature; and its interest and
usefulness will be enhanced by a full series of high class animal
portraits, which embraces typical animals of all the leading breeds, and
which has been specially prepared at great expense for this edition by
The original plan of the
work has been in the main preserved. With the view of facilitating
reference, some minor changes, such as headings instead of numbers to
paragraphs, have been introduced. Much care has been bestowed upon the
introduction of these paragraph headings, and they are set forth
clearly, so that the reader may learn at a glance the subjects dealt
with in any part of the work.
As in the third edition,
the work is divided into heads: 1. Initiation, in which the young man
desirous of becoming a farmer is advised to acquaint himself beforehand
with certain branches of science which have a close relation to
Agriculture, and is also instructed as to how this knowledge is to be
obtained and as to where he can best learn the practice of his art; 2.
Practice, which details the entire operations, through the four seasons,
of raising crops, and rearing the domesticated animals; 3. Realisation,
wherein the young farmer is advised how to bargain for and stock a
farm—how to execute many operations he may have to undertake—how to
judge and to conduct the breeding of live stock—and, lastly, how to keep
accurate accounts of all his transactions.
It is hoped that the new
edition, in its greatly extended and thoroughly revised form, may
efficiently help farmers to pursue their occupation with pleasure and
profit. Farming, if it is to maintain its importance as an industry,
must, like any other business, be conducted at a profit. With reduced
prices and other magnified obstacles, it is more difficult than ever to
accomplish this. More than ever, therefore, is it important that the
farmer should fortify himself with all the guidance, stimulus, and
encouragement which The Book of the Farm is capable of affording to him.
The work is designed as a guide to him in every piece of practical work
and every item of farming business he is called upon to engage in. It
presents itself as a faithful compendium of the experience of a whole
army of agricultural "specialists,"—men who have shown themselves to be
proficient in some special branch of practical farming or province of
allied science. The work thus aims at forming in itself a compendious
professional library for every well-equipped farmer.
In taking up the
life-work of the able and respected author of The Book of the Farm, I
have felt the responsibility all the greater because of the exceptional
conditions which at the present moment surround the British farmer.
Happily, in the preparation of the new edition, I have had the privilege
of the cordial co-operation of a great many of the leading agricultural
and scientific authorities of the day, and I feel that I have thereby
been enabled to impart to the work a quality of some special
importance,—a comprehensiveness and efficiency which could not otherwise
have been attained. It will be sincerely gratifying to me if the work in
its new form should be considered worthy the memory of the late Henry
Stephens, whose services to the interests of British farmers have earned
for his name a lasting place in the annals of agriculture.
When the publication of
the work is completed, it will be my duty and pleasure to express my
obligations to those who have thus so ably assisted me.
Note: I found this book due to watching the BBC series
"Victorian Farm" in which they quote this book as the source of
information for the series. I also noted that in the series there was
mention that there was a book about how the farm household was run and
they did mention a book that many farmer's wives would have referred to
and so I also sought out that book as well. So in all there are
now 7 volumes for you to download here. In addition I found the original
publication printed in 1852 which I also provide below as that was pre a
lot of the more modern farming inventions.
"The Book of the Farm" detailing the
labour of the Farmer, Steward, Plowman, Hedger, Cattle-Man, Shepherd,
Field-Worker, and Dairy-Maid by Henry Stephens 1852 in three volumes.
Volume 1 (71Mb) |
Volume 2 (33Mb) |
Volume 3 (33Mb)