Author Archives: cow

The World Turned Upside Down by Christopher Hill

You can’t really understand English history without a thorough grounding in the English Revolution in the mid 1600s. That this is called the English Civil War in England, and the English Revolution elsewhere, is indicative of numerous attempts to rewrite this period of history to suit the winners and the powers that be.

Christopher Hill is a masterful guide to this period in history and this is a really good place to start understanding the revolution from a far broader perspective than ones you may have picked up from popular culture or school.

Featuring the Diggers, the Ranters, the Levellers, the Quakers and any number of other sects and radicals who survived to become religions or nineties festival bands, it is a portrait not of the bourgeois revolution that won out but of the far more fundamental overturning of society which many were driving for.

A History of the Welsh Land Settlement Society by Roland Ward

The land settlement societies and land settlement association, are along with the Plotlands movement, important forgotten parts of recent British history. They stand as highly useful and inspiring examples of post war movements of people back to the land and the countryside. The Plotlands were bottom up and anarcist in nature (although I highly doubt the participants would have identified as anarcist!), whilst the land settlement movement was far more top down with state and non state actors involved.

This book is short, sweet and very detailed about facts, figures and costs whilst making keen observations about the surrounding politics. The sub title ‘something must be done’ is a quote from Edward Windsor when he was part of the British royal family which in part antagonised the government to take action on the huge number of unemployed people in Wales by supporting them into running smallholding businesses. Edwards words were seen as inflamatory, and inappropriate meddling by the supposedly a-political monarchy at the time.

A History of Allotments in Sheffield by Margaret Boulton

This is a really great deep dive into local Sheffield history whilst at the same time providing lots of context which I imagine would make it still of interest to those further afield.

I drank it down and revelled in the geekery, for example, did you know that Mount Pleasant is the name for the part of each town or city where all the night soil (aka human poo) was taken every morning so farmers could transport it to their land for fertiliser?

Natives by Akala

Race and class in the ruins of empire

We are major Akala fans here in the herd and regularly send his various short youtube videos over to folks for homework.

I’m not going to write about this book here because The Guardian’s book review does all really good job of inspiring you to read it.

After you’ve read this, The Many Headed Hydra is a great companion book to dive deeper.

The Same Sky over All by David Smith

An account of farming in the Chelmsford area of Essex

Another book in the same genre as ‘Where Beards Wag All‘ which perfectly and poetically captures the last days of pre mechanised peasant agriculture in Essex and the first steps of the transition into fossil fuel fuelled farming. Simply and beautifully written, a good way to look back to look forward

Where Beards Wag All by George Ewart Evans

A really beautiful insight into the last days of peasant agriculture in England before the post war mechanisation of agriculture and the role of the oral tradition in rural communities.

From his landmark study of rural life in East Anglia, Ask the Fellows Who Cut the Hay (1956), George Ewart Evans set about, in a series of books, unveiling the sylvan round of myth and merriment, plenty and hardship, that informed the traditions and texture of country living. Core to his chronicles is the oral tradition, echoing through the years, and it is this that he concentrates upon in Where Beards Wag All (1970). Here are the memories, unmediated and raw, of the craftsman, the drover, the marshman – a chorus to the seasons’ constant turn. And it is by no means an idyll they describe: thrift and want, poverty and subjection are often their lyric. The depression of the 1930s is vividly brought to life, and a particularly affecting section details the migration of East Anglian farm-workers to the maltings of Burton-on-Trent. Where Beards Wag All is a touching and faithful portrait of the countryside of fading memory.

Cotters and Squatters by Colin Ward

This book is magnificent and tragically out of press with second hand copies going for silly money. I’ve tried to persuade the publisher to re-issue it or to make it available digitally but to no avail yet. Succint, throughly readable and utterly compelling, I hope your local library can sort you out with a copy.

Squatters were the original householders, and this book explores the story of squatter settlements in England and Wales, from our cave-dwelling ancestors to the squeezing out of cottagers in the enclosure of the commons.

There is a widespread folk belief that if a house could be erected between sundown and sunset the occupants had the right to tenure and could not be evicted. Often enquiry into the manorial court rolls shows this to be the case. Unofficial roadside settlements or encroachments onto the ‘wastes’ between parishes provided space for the new miners, furnacemen and artisans who made the industrial revolution, while cultivating a patch of ground and keeping a pig and some chickens. Colin Ward’s book, full of local anecdote and glimpses of surviving evidence, links the hidden history of unofficial settlements with the issues raised by 20th century squatters and the 21st century claims that ‘The Land is Ours’.

Colin presents a wealth of fascinating anecdote, analysis and polemic highlighting the sheer variety of ways individuals have created sustainable homes and livelihoods in nooks and crannies at the margins of society.” Regeneration and Renewal

“Rural squatters are now only a footnote in social history. Their families built themselves a house on some unregarded patch of land… For years, the environmental humanist Colin Ward has tried to rescue such people from the mythology of heritage museums, the indulgences of romantic novelists and the dust of local archives; and to draw lessons from them for today. Cotters and Squatters is the latest vivid instalment of his campaign.” The Independent

“Ward is not averse to a little squalor, or at least untidiness.The modern countryside is altogether too neatly packaged and sewn-up for the benefits of the well-off, he feels. Overzealous planning laws, and what he calls “the suffocating nimbyism of the countryside lobby, with its Range Rover culture,” are dismissed as an affront to rural history. His new book is an exploration of the long struggle of the rural poor to acquire and keep a roof over their heads.” The Guardian

Dadabhai Naoroji – Britain’s first Asian MP in 1892

Dadabhai Naoroji (1825-1917) was the first Asian to sit in the House of Commons, a hugely important leader in India before Mahatma Gandhi, as well as being an anti-racist and anti-imperialist of global significance. Well worth learning more about his inspiring life via:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dadabhai_Naoroji

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-india-52829458

A lovely succint history overview (England and Forest of Dean)

Well this short history overview (taken from http://cabiners.wum.land/Wum-Land-Development_intro_to_LID.pdf) is really rather good and covers much of the same stations as the show plus a few more that didn’t quite make the cut, due to lack of time rather than historical badassness. There is another excellent piece more specific to the Forest of Dean here https://cabiners.wum.land/history.html

450 to 1066 – Anglo-Saxon Charters grant land to ‘lay people’ (commoners), set-up the administrative areas that correspond closely to our modern parish boundaries. The earliest surviving charter of King Hlothhere of Kent was drawn up in AD 670.

1066-7 Norman invasion displaces Anglo-Saxon commons/ land ownership model. William the Bastard declares that all land, animals and people in the country belong to him personally. This was as alien to the Isle’s customs as the colonial land-grabs were to the First Nations of America. Still today, the monarch’s land monopoly remains, in theory and practise, a legal reality. Land is parcelled up and given as payment to Williams forces. We go from a country in which >90% of people owned land, to a country of landless serfs, themselves owned by foreign lords.

1066-70 The ‘Greenmen’ resist the Norman invasion. Wearing camouflage, they run guerilla warfare campaigns against the invaders who called them the ‘silvatici’ (the men of the woods).

1069–70 the ‘Harrying of the North’, William burnt down every building between York and Durham, and killed by starvation or sword over one hundred thousand people. Many of the largest land owners in this country still today proudly trace their family tree back to ancestors who were involved in this bloodbath.

1135 – 1154 Civil war during the reign of Stephen saw the strength of the regional lords/ barons rise relative to the Crown as they established political and judicial arenas other than those defined by the Crown- creating a degree of regionalisation. England’s population more than doubled during 12th and 13th centuries stressing the economically inefficient land monopolies.

1215 Barons forced King John to limit his own power by signing Magna Carta which restated certain ancient, customary rights. Some of which were pre-Norman, and likely echoed back to our ancient oral traditions, existing long before the Roman invasion.

1217 Charter of the Forest re-established rights for Freemen to access and make use of the Royal Forests without persecution.

1235 – Statute of Merton encouraged landowners to convert arable land into pasture, as demand for British wool increased. Displacing traditional peasant agriculturalists and farmers. Commons Act 1236 allowed lords to enclose common land. Wool was the backbone and driving force of the medieval English economy between the late thirteenth century and late fifteenth century the trade (a primary driver of enclosure) was called “the jewel in the realm” or ‘half the wealth of the kingdom’. Statutes of Westminster 1275/ 85/ 90- restrict subtenure/ sale of parcels of land (a threat to state land monopoly) other than to the direct heirs of the landlord. It was prompted by certain lords who were dissatisfied with increasing amount of subtenures. These restrictions gave rise to ‘livery and maintenance’ or ‘bastard feudalism’, i.e. the retention and control by the nobility of land, money, soldiers and servants via salaries, land sales and rent. In-effect, this was the start of modern wage-slavery, and still works today, to ensure the regions remain economically dependent on the core, via state subsidised and enforced land monopoly to restrict regional economic and thus political power.

Rising European merchant class capitalised on mass production of wool being facilitated by displacing agrarian communities.

British wool became very sought after in Europe. Increasing demand for British wool, led to more mass displacement of peasants–generating an landless ‘class’ of urban dependents.

Great Famine 1315 and the Black Death 1348 killed >1/3 of the population, forcing the landed classes to value the productive members of their society (the peasants) who grew all the food.

1337-1453, Hundred Year War vs France, financed by merchant capital to gain control of the Flemish wool industry and weavers.

1340-1380 purchasing power of rural labourers increased 40%.

1351/ 49 The Labourers Acts were the nobilities reaction to the rising bargaining power of peasants, they fixed wages to ‘preplague levels’, restricted free movement and price-fixed foods.

1377 John of Gaunt imposed a new tax, the Poll (head) Tax.

1381 Peasants Revolt : Kentish rebels joined by many townsfolk, entered London. They destroy gaols, burned down Savoy Palace (Gaunts home), plundered Lambeth Palace, burnt books and buildings in the Temple, killed anyone associated with the royal government. The following day, Richard met the rebels at Mile End and acceded their demands, including the abolition of serfdom & poll tax (the only promise not reneged soon after)

1400-1409 Owain Glynd r last native Prince of Wales (Tywysog Cymru) viewed as a de facto King, led the ‘Welsh Revolt’ rapidly gaining control of large areas of Wales. Eventually his forces were overrun by the English, but despite the large rewards offered, Glynd r was never betrayed. His death was recorded by his kinsman in the year 1415, it is said he joined the ranks of King Arthur, and awaits the call to return and liberate his people.

1450 – Jack Cade led an army of Kentish peasants (described by ‘Shakespeare’ as “the filth and scum of Kent”) the rebels persuaded first army dispatched to pack up & go home, skilfully evaded a second of 15,000 men led by Henry VI, defeated third army in battle, killing two of the king’s generals in the process.

1450–1451 John and William Merfold’s Uprising centred around Sussex, mostly comprised of artisans pillaging and killing local gentry and clergy. “[The rebels wished] as lollards and heretics, to hold everything in common.” – the King’s Indictment, 1451

1489 Depopulation Act ‘agaynst pullying doun of Tounes’, Kings introduce anti-enclosure acts, due to widespread clearances, and the depopulation of entire villages. There were to be 11 similar Acts & eight commissions of enquiry over next 150 years. Henry VIII legislates against early cloth factories & enclosures, a primary source of wealth for the emerging ‘middle class’ of land owners, but lacked the strength to fully implement his changes.

1515 Henry VIII orders all pasture be converted back to arable in an attempt to reign in fortunes being made by the merchants.

1536 to 1541 – Dissolution of the Monasteries by Henry VIII privatising church lands (then 1/5th of the land), generating even more landless people, wholly dependent on urban wage-slavery.

1549 Kett’s anti-enclosure rebels 16,000 strong, took Norwich. Kett was 57 years old and one of the areas wealthier farmers. Erection of Cottages Act 1588 “against erecting and maintaining of Cottages” by people with less than four acres of freehold land. Prevent people building homes, farming remaining common land There is a surprising amount of continuity, in ‘open field systems’ from the fourth millennium BC up until the Norman invasion. Communal land management originated centuries, perhaps millennia before the Anglo-Saxon era. In Anglo-Saxon land law or ‘folkland’, as it was called, land was held in allodial title by the group, individual ownership did occur but it was limited to ensure the needs of the group were met.

1607 the agrarian changes (depopulation, enclosure) in the Midlands had produced mass armed revolts of the peasantry.

1607 to 1636, Government pursued an active anti-enclosure policy. Charles I, the ‘Commoners’ King’ was ‘re-commoning’ lands enclosed by lords and merchants, just before Civil War.

1620 Sir Edward Coke ‘greatest of English judges’, and a keen opponent of enclosure, declared depopulation against the laws of the realm ‘the encloser who kept a shepherd and dog in place of a flourishing village community was hateful to God and man.’ Ethnically cleansing ‘peasants’ is a clear violation of our ancient Common Law of Tort which is ‘cause no injury, harm or loss’

1626–1632 The Western Rising was a series of riots in the Dean and other Forests against disafforestation of royal forests

“In 1633-4 we find a proposal that all inclosures made since James I. should be thrown back into arable on pain of forfeiture” Enclosers still prosecuted in the Star Chamber as late as 1639.

1638 in the Forest of Dean “The deer were to be disposed of, as demoralizing the inhabitants and injuring the young wood; the commissioners recommended ejecting the cottagers who had established themselves in the Forest, as often before, in defiance of authority, and who numbered upwards of 2,000, occupying 589 cottages, besides 1,798 small enclosures containing 1,385 acres. As to defraying the cost of executing the above works, the commissioners recommended the sale of about 440 acres of detached Crown land adjoining the Forest” Charles I gave a short break in enclosures, he’s then beheaded. Post civil war enclosures accelerated by a largely landowning Parliament, blighting our entire population to this present day.

1642-1651 English Civil War, old feudal v.s. merchant powers.

1649 mass-redistribution, Cromwell sells 1,677 Royalist Estates

1649 Gerrard Winstanley with a peasant army, called the ‘True Levellers’ (later diggers) declaim the Earth a Common Treasury. The Diggers print radical protestant literature, aimed at reforming the social order with an agrarian lifestyle based on the creation of small egalitarian, self-sufficient rural communities, an ecological interrelationship between humans and nature, “true freedom lies where a man receives his nourishment and preservation, and that is in the use of the Earth.”

1659, Forest riots ‘probably excited by the efforts which the Government had recently made for the re-afforesting of 18,000 acres; to effect which 400 cabins of poor people, living upon the waste, and destroying the wood and timber, were thrown down.’ English nationalist discourse in the mid-17th century spoke of throwing off the ‘Norman yoke’ – i.e. feudalism, land monopoly.

1671 Game Act made it illegal to hunt wild animals, considered a common right since time immemorial. Also illegal for farmers to protect crops from rabbits, other animals. Starvation or crime. Around now modern banking arrived in England from Holland leading to a century of boom and bust bubbles, expensive wars in which banking families made huge profits funding both sides.

1680 in the FOD “there were remaining about 30 cabins, in several parts of the Forest, inhabited by about 100 poor people, (The Crown) had taken care to demolish the said cabins, and the enclosures about them.” These were not the Forest “free miners”, although “they had been born in it, and never lived elsewhere,” but as “cabiners,” who had to work seven years in the pits before they could become “free.” Freedom=Slavery. Glorious Revolution of 1688 leading to the Bill of Rights 1689.

1700-1850 Parliamentary Enclosures, no longer held back by sections of the Church, nor the power of Monarchs- enclosures increase exponentially in speed and size, urban slums grow too.

By 1700 half all arable lands enclosed, by 1815 nearly all farm land was enclosed, hunting, grazing, gleaning rights all but lost.

From 1750 to 1820 desperate poachers were ‘hanged en-mass’

1790-1830 a third of rural population migrates to urban slums. Where they are put to work in factories, workhouses called by Blake the “Satanic Mills” of modernity, i.e. ‘Industrial Revolution’.

1788 Mr. Miles Hartland, assistant-deputy-surveyor stated to the Dean Forest Commissioners, “cottages and encroachments in the Forest have nearly doubled within the last forty years.”

1811 – 1816 Concerned that machines would replace their highskill labour, the Luddites smash machinery, threaten industrialist. Luddites were not anti technology, they were pro-workers rights. Early 1800’s Industrialist Robert Owen talks of a ‘moral rebirth’ and sets about improving the living conditions of his workers.

1800-1850 Highland Clearances led to the displacement of up to 500,000 Highland peasants and crofters, tens of thousands of which died in the early-mid the 19th century, to be replaced by sheep. A member of the British Aristocracy noted ‘It is time to make way for the grand-improvement of mutton over man.’

1808 Dean Forest Timber Act 1814-1816 11,000 acres enclosed

1831, Warren James with 100 Foresters, demolished enclosures at Park Hill, between Parkend and Bream. 50 unarmed Crown Officers were powerless to intervene. Soon a party of 50 soldiers arrived from Monmouth, but by now the number of Foresters had grown to around 2000 and the soldiers returned to barracks. squadron of heavily armed soldiers arrived from Doncaster and the day after, another 180 infantrymen from Plymouth James was sentenced to death, later transportation to Tasmania.

1845 – 1852 Irish Potato ‘Famine’, as British troops seized foods, to be exported at gun-point leaving the Irish population to starve.

1845 and 1849: 616 major landlords owned 95% of the British Isles and rented marginal lands to land-workers (peasants).

1849 Forest of Dean ‘a general feeling prevailed against the deer, on the ground of their demoralising influence as an inducement to poaching, and all were ordered to be destroyed, there being perhaps 150 bucks, 300 does. “if once men begin to poach, we can never reckon upon their working afterwards.” Mr. Nicholson’s statement before Lord Duncan’s Committee

1872 the British Government published ‘The Return of the Owners of Land’, only the second audit of land to have taken place in British history, the other being the Domesday book. After 2 years of gathering all the information the returns found that 1 million people owned freeholds, about 5% of the population. 10 Dukes owned over 100,000 acres each with the Duke of Sutherland owning 1,350,000 acres, 1/50th of the entire country. Return of Owners of Land, confirmed that 0.6 per cent of the population owned 98.5% of the land. Half of Britain was owned by 0.06% of the population. Findings still well hidden till this day.

Late 1800 industrialists build villages for workers, in anticipation of higher productivity. Strict, religious ‘rules’ concerning drinking, dancing, singing or fraternising with opposite sex were common.

Late 1800s – early 1900s land reforms start making headway, allotment acts, numerous attempts to introduce a land value tax- to return tax burden to large land owners. Landowners fear land may soon become a liability, so they sell >1/2million acres in a short space of time- though mostly to other large landowners.

1899 Commons Act permits district councils, national park authorities to manage commons for ‘exercise and recreation’.

1900-1946 ¼ of a billion Europeans die from war, famine or as a result of war. Enables land-grabbing on an unprecedented scale.

1920-47 Plotlands were the first chance for workers to own land and build dwellings on it – they lead to the invention of Planning Laws to prevent poor people building houses in the countryside.

1925 Law of Property Act s.193 gave the right of the public to “air and exercise” on Metropolitan commons, but not rural commons.

1925 Land registry begins, to-date about 50% of land registered.

1930’s ‘Green Revolution’, a euphemism for the petrochemical based agriculture of the (post-)war period, has succeeded only in finding and expanding new ‘markets’ for the petrochemical corporations who became incredibly wealthy and politically influential by selling fuel & chemical weapons during the wars. In fact, many of the insecticides and herbicides sprayed on our foods today are modified or sometimes even just ‘rebranded’ chemicals originally designed as weapons of war. Of course, the exact same chemical corporations also manufacture and sell pharmaceutical drugs, which make additional revenue ‘treating’ the ‘diseases of civilisation’ which so often result from exposure to these chemical. As the head of I.G. Farben infamously said… “we intend to make the human-body, our market place.” Currently more than 70 per cent of UK land is owned by fewer than two per cent of the population. Much of which is directly traceable to Guillaume (William) the Bastard/ Conqueror whose 22nd great-granddaughter sits upon the ‘English’ throne still today. Meanwhile, Britain’s 16.8 million homeowners account for barely 4 per cent of the land, about the same as that owned by the Forestry Commission. Today, Britain has the second most unequal distribution of land ownership on Earth, after Brazil.

1962 start of the European Union’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), largest political bribery structure ever conceived by man.

1981, The Foresters won an exemption from Forestry Act’s land sales. Then MP Paul Marland quickly changed his mind about supporting the sale saying… “Today’s Forester is of the same independent mind and rugged character as were his forefathers. It is our duty to preserve his ancient rights and traditions”. Take note!

1986 Inheritance taxes finish off remaining Anglo-Norman landed gentry, well, those not already in-bed with ‘globalist’ financiers.

1996, 500 ‘The Land is Ours’ activists occupied 13 acres of derelict land on the banks of the River Thames in Wandsworth.

In 1999, the British activist group ‘The Land is Ours’ celebrated the Digger movement’s 350th anniversary with a march and reoccupation of Saint George’s Hill, site of the first Digger colony. CROW Act 2000 recognised ‘freedom to roam’ on common land.

2008, first low-impact development granted planning permission to Tony Wrench & ‘that round-house’, after attempted eviction failed.

2009, nearly a hundred activists converged on a piece of derelict land at Kew Bridge in south west London to create an ‘eco-village’.

2010 HOOF successfully fought nationwide forest sell-off from public bodies bill, leading to the government backing down and setting up the Independent Panel of Forestry, which concluded that, “

2012 Wilderness Centre reopened in Spring, Yorkley Court’s ‘disorderly settlement’ begins in the Autumn of that year.

2012 “Runnymede Eco-Village started by ‘the Diggers 2012’ who are modelled after Gerald Winstanley’ Diggers of 1649. Successes of Low-impact development planning policy in Wales, under the ‘One Planet Development’ scheme -the flagship project is Lammas eco-village in Pembrokeshire. Oxford University produces a DNA map of Britian which reveals that “most people in Great Britian still live in the tribal teritories which existed over 1000 years ago.” Geneticist Professor Sir Walter Bodmer of Oxford University said: “What it shows is the extraordinary stability of the British population. Britain hasn’t changed much since 600AD.

https://cabiners.wum.land/history.html

Farming While Black by Leah Penniman

Farming While Black is the first comprehensive “how to” guide for aspiring African-heritage growers to reclaim their dignity as agriculturists and for all farmers to understand the distinct, technical contributions of African-heritage people to sustainable agriculture.

This is a truly epic piece of work which includes some compelling history lessons alongside being a cultural and practical manual for acquiring, working and thriving on the land in America. There is so much to learn here for land workers of colour as well as white people on an anti-racism journey.

We have included some of the things we learned from this book into recent performances of the show.

If you don’t want to dive straight into the book, Leah Penniman’s podcast with Farmerama is a good place to start or one of these blogs:

Memo: Land Access for Beginning and Disadvantaged Farmers

We Need a Green New Deal for Farmland

In 1910, one in seven farmers were African-American and held titles to approximately 16-19 million acres of farmland. Over the next century, 98% of Black farmers were dispossessed through discriminatory practices at the USDA and various federal farm programs. These farmers were often denied loans and credit, lacked access to legal defense against fraud, and experienced “outright acts of violence and intimidation” resulting in a 90% loss of Black-owned farmland in the US.

Today, 98% of private rural land is owned by white people, while less than 1% is Black-owned. The USDA’s systemic bias against Black and minority farmers “is well documented” and affirmed by the 2010 Pigford vs. Glickman class action lawsuit, which resulted in a $1.25 billion settlement. Black farmers continue to experience discrimination in access to credit, seeds, and other assistance, and face foreclosure at six times the rate of their White counterparts.”

Panorama – The Money Farmers (30 mins)

2012 BBC Panorama revealing how millions of pounds of public money are paid out to businessmen and millionaire farmers in an abuse of the farming subsidy system. Investors tell us how they have been paid without having to do any farming at all. And Samantha also sets out to see if she can take advantage of the subsidy system and become rich from the loophole.

The programme also examines the rest of the subsidy system and hears criticism of large payments to wealthy individuals like the Queen and the Duke of Westminster simply on the basis of owning large amounts of land.

Rich landowners paid millions in farming subsidies

Six-figure subsidies meant to help struggling farmers are being paid out to some of Britain’s richest landowners, BBC Panorama has found.

Recipients of the EU subsidy include the Queen and the Duke of Westminster.

The programme requested details of the number of landowners claiming a slice of the £3.5bn subsidy in the UK.

The EU’s Agriculture Commissioner has called for a cap of about £250,000 for each farmer and measures to ensure that they are actively farming their land.

Privacy rules mean that the names of most recipients are not known, but anonymised details were given showing how many landowners across the UK received more than the cap proposed by Agriculture Commissioner Dacian Ciolos.

‘Honest farmers suffer’

The data from England, Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland shows that 889 landowners received more than £250,000. Of those, 133 were given more than £500,000 and 47 of those were given more than £1m in subsidy.

Jack Thurston, who campaigns for reforms to the Common Agriculture Policy’s subsidy, said: “These are very wealthy people and if we’re in the business of handing out public money to farmers because they’re poor, these are not the kind of people that we’d be handing that money to.”

Mr Thurston said the system is flawed because it rewards large landowners based on the number of hectares they own, not on financial need.

Officials in Scotland and Wales said they would consider a cap, while Northern Ireland has endorsed a cap of £100,000. But the Department of Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) for England is against the proposal.

In a statement, Defra said charities that are also large landowners, such as the National Trust, would be harmed if the subsidy requirements were changed.

In a statement, it also said: “Successive UK government have been opposed to capping payments. This is because to avoid losing subsidies, bigger farms would restructure and the only gainers would be lawyers.”

EU Agriculture Commissioner Mr Ciolos said the system needs to change: “I am very frustrated because this means millions of very honest farmers have to suffer because some speculators who use this opportunity with the Common Agricultural Policy became more rich only because they have some hectares.”

The National Farmers Union has also defended the current subsidy system, saying some payouts to wealthy landowners are “unavoidable”.

Peter Kendall, NFU president, said it still remains the best possible system for farmers: “It is one of those side effects of the system we have at present. I want money to go to active farmers who are producing food, and that should matter whether you’re producing on two acres, or two thousand acres.

(From http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-17225652)

(1872) My master and I

I used to sing this song in shows a lot but it seems to have been nudged out. I’ve yet to hear anyone else sing or record it. Might pop that on the to do list… Taken from Roy Palmer’s excellent The Painful Plough.

Says the Master to me is it true as I’m told,
Your names on the book of the Union enrolled,
I can never allow that a workman of mine,
With wicked Disturbers of Peace should combine.

Said I to the Master it’s perfectly true,
That I’m in the Union I’ll stick to it too,
And if between Union and you I must choose,
I’ve plenty to win and little to lose.

For twenty years mostly my bread has been dry,
And to butter it now I will certainly try,
And though I respect you remember I pray,
No Master in England shall trample on me.

Says the Master to me in a word or two more,
We never have quarreled on matters before,
If you stick to the Union ‘ere long I’ll be bound,
You’ll come and ask me for more wages all round.

Now I cannot afford more than two bob a day,
And look at the taxes and rent that I pay,
And the crops are so injured by game as you see,
If it’s hard for you it’s hard for me.

Says I to the Master I do not see how,
Any need has arisen for quarreling now,
And though likely enough we shall ask for more wage,
I promise you we shall be first in a rage.

(1985) The Battle of the Beanfield by The Levellers

I loved this song as a teenager but knew nothing about the subject matter, nor would I have known where to find any in my Daily Telegraph reading Thatcher-lite household and community. But now we have wikipedia and easy to find interviews with the band about writing it.

I thought i heard someone calling me
I’ve seen the pictures on TV
And i made up my mind that i’d go and see
With my own eyes

It didn’t take too long to hitch a ride
With a guy going south to start a new life
Past the place where my friend died
Two years ago

Down the 303 at the end of the road
Flashing lights – exclusion zones
And it made me think it’s not just the stones
That they’re guarding

Hey hey, can’t you see
There’s nothing here that you could call free
They’re getting their kicks
Laughing at you and me

As the sun rose on the beanfield
They came like wolf on the fold
And no they didn’t give a warning
They took their bloody toll

I see a pregnant woman
Lying in blood of her own
I see her children crying
As the police tore apart her home
And no they didn’t need a reason
It’s what your votes condone
It seems they were committing treason
By trying to live on the road

(1915*) Mrs Barbours’ Army by Alistair Hulett

If I could marry a song it would probably be this one. Alistair Hulett on fine form writing about Mary Barbour and the Glasgow Women’s rent strike at the start of the 1914-1918 war.

Mrs Barbour’s Army by Alistair Hulett

In the tenements o’ Glesga in the year one nine one five
It was one lang bloody struggle tae keep ourselves alive
We were coontin’ oot the coppers tae buy wor scraps o’ food
When the landlords put the rent up just because they could
A’ the factories were hummin’, there was overtime galore
But wages they were driven doon tae subsidise the war
Oot came Mrs. Barbour from her wee bit single end
She said, I’ll organise the lassies if I cannae rouse the men

‘Cos I’m from Govan and your from Partick
This one here’s from Bridge o’ Weir and they’re from Kinning Park
There’s some that’s prods, there’s some that’s catholic
But we’re Mrs. Barbour’s Army and we’re here tae dae the wark

Mrs. Barbour made a poster sayin’, We’ll no’ pay higher rent
Then she chapped on every door of every Govan tenement
She said, Pit this in the windae when you hear me bang the drum
We’ll run oot an’ chase the factor a’ the way tae kingdom come
When the poor wee soul cam roon’ he was battered black and blue
By a regiment in pinnies that knew just what tae do
Mrs. Barbour organised the gaitherin’ o’ the clans
And they burst oot o’ the steamie armed wi’ pots an’ fryin’ pans

Mrs. Barbour’s Army spread through Glesga like the plague
The maisters got the message and the message wisnae vague
While our menfolk fight the Kaiser we’ll stay hame & fight the war
Against all the greedy bastards who keep grindin’ doon the poor
If ye want tae stop conscription stand and fight the profiteers
Bring the hale big bloody sandpit crashin’ doon aroon’ their ears
We’ll no’ starve, said Mrs. Barbour, While the men we care for ain
Are marchin aff to hae their heart’s blood washed like water doon a drain

Well it didnae take the government that lang tae realise
If you crack doon on the leaders then the rest will compromise
They arrested Mrs. Barbour and they clapped her in the jile
Then they made an awfy big mistake, they let her oot on bail
She called men out the factories on the Clyde and on the Cart
They marched up tae the courthoose sayin’, We’ll tear the place apart
Mrs. Barbour’s Army brought the maisters tae their knees
Wi’ a regiment in pinnies backed by one in dungarees