Industrial Ideal vs Agricultural Reality

Professor Frank Uekötter, Professor of Environmental Humanities at the University of Birmingham, presents the latest in a series of Contemporary History Interventions.

The research project “The Making of Monoculture: A Global History” (MaMoGH) started in October 2021 with support from a European Research Council Advanced Grant. It seeks to trace the pathways towards monoculture and looks for recurring patterns and trajectories, common challenges and mindsets.

Starting in September 2022, a group of post-doctoral researchers will investigate different agricultural and forest systems in different parts of the worlds with a view to understanding underlying rationales and dynamisms. The overarching goal is to provide a better understanding of monocultures as ecological and socioeconomic trouble spots. The project aims for a history that shows greater awareness of the significance and fragility of our material existence.

It also seeks to address ongoing debates on the modern food system. On a planet that needs to feed eight billion people and more, getting a grip on the problems of monoculture is one of the defining challenges of our time.

Professor Uekötter teaches on our postgraduate MA Contemporary History degree, designed to provide you with a solid grounding in the major outlines of recent world history, along with a wide choice of specialised modules to suit your own interests. This programme approaches contemporary history through issues and problems with vital on-going importance, including environmental politics, information technology, post-colonial migration, internationalism and empire.

00:00 Introduction
00:19 Every Farm A Factory: Deborah Fitzgerald
01:30 Empire of Cotton: Saul Beckert
02:04 Industrial ideal: 1920s US agriculture
03:46 A messier, more multi-layered story
05:46 A time of crisis
06:50 European agriculture and peasant parties
08:33 Economists and book-keeping for farming
09:20 Engineers and farm machinery

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