Scattering Plenty tells the multi-dimensional story of farming and the countryside in the 20th century – through wartime, post-war reconstruction and four decades embroiled in European countryside policies. It tells of the birth of modern farming, of the fight for nature and natural beauty, of the decline of the great estates and their rebirth as pleasure grounds, of access to the countryside, and of the gradual control that state and democratic agencies have had on the land. It explains how land became used for modern purposes, how conservationists won a place at the top table, and asks where farming and the countryside will go in the 21st century when people want much more out of the land and are vocal in campaigning for it.
The book will evoke the landscape of Britain, describe wartime ‘dig for victory’ campaigns, and take the reader inside the corridors of power in Whitehall and Brussels where farmers and environmentalists jostled for influence. It seeks to answer important human questions. Who were the people scattering plenty across our land? Who were the agriculturalists, scientists, farmers and politicians who rose to the challenge of feeding a nation in wartime? Who took the wartime plan and made high and profitable farming part of the modern state alongside our NHS, industry and education? Who challenged this from within the new disciplines of conservation, ecology and countryside management? Who sought revolution and to overturn the new farming establishment, and who sought compromise, winning small-scale battles that helped shift the direction of policy? Who made the modern countryside?
This is the story of the nation’s 20th century countryside through the eyes and minds of the men and women who most influenced it. Political commentator Matthew Parris says of public discourse: ‘There are no demons, no Heaven, no Hell, no cosmic forces of good and evil, no battle between darkness and light. There is only us’. Scattering Plenty is the story of us and how we have managed the countryside.