Agricultural technology has moved on, inexorably, from broad-cast seed and the sound of the threshing flail, via the portable steam engine and the threshing machine, right through to the modern world of giant tractors and efficient farming methods. This book traces the broad sweep of the whole industry over 200 years. Beginning with the pre-modern world of the horse-drawn plough and the flail, it tells the story of the British agricultural engineering industry, and how it has revolutionized British farming – a revolution which is still going on today. A central theme of the book is technical innovation – the replacement of the wooden plough of the eighteenth century with the iron plough, the triumph of the steam engine and the threshing machine in the late Victorian era, and the tractor and combine harvester revolution of the twentieth century. Along the way we meet the inventors, form Jethro Tull to Henry Ford and Harry Ferguson. Apart from the larger issues of business history, the personal is not neglected. We enter the worlds of the Victorian factory laborer, the local employer dynasties of the later nineteenth century, the women workers of the First World War, the office politics of the 1920s, and of the enigmatic Harry Ferguson. We uncover the treachery of the Russian agent at Odessa in 1918, and find out why the attempt to create a massive industry-wide combination after the First World War failed so disastrously.
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