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Cautionary notes on linking the National Farm Survey with other records for investigating the agrarian history of Second World War Britain

journal contribution
posted on 2023-06-08, 15:26 authored by Katherine J Taylor, Nigel Walford, Brian Short, Richard Armitage
This paper explores the feasibility of using National Farm Survey (NFS) data in conjunction with a contemporary aerial photograph to reconstruct farm sizes, shapes and land use in the parish of Hamsey, East Sussex. A detailed analysis based on linking these documents demonstrates that there are difficulties with the consistency of the data, with only 12 out of 19 farms having a complete set of NFS forms, and with some ambiguities discovered in the NFS maps. The areas of arable and grassland for each farm were identified from the 1940 aerial photograph and captured in a GIS. The total acreages were then compared with the totals for crops and grass as shown in the June 1941 Agricultural Census. These were found to diverge by more than 20 per cent in over a third of cases. Attempts were made to adjust for the effects of the wartime plough-up campaign in order to improve levels of agreement but these were largely unsuccessful due to the high numbers of 'part' fields. The study yields some useful information at the micro-scale but provides salutary warnings about any attempt to reconstruct farms on a larger geographical scale due to the complex and time-consuming nature of the task.


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  • Published


Agricultural History Review




British Agricultural History Society





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  • Geography Publications

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