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Presenting rurality: the Land Settlement Association in interwar England

Arnall, A. ORCID: (2021) Presenting rurality: the Land Settlement Association in interwar England. Journal of Rural Studies, 83. pp. 177-186. ISSN 0743-0167

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1016/j.jrurstud.2020.10.019


This paper explores how past notions of idyllic rural dwelling were mobilised and enacted during the implementation of the UK Land Settlement Association (LSA) scheme established in 1934. The LSA was a UK Government programme set up to resettle unemployed workers from depressed industrial urban areas to the countryside. Between 1934 and 1939, 1,100 smallholdings were established within 20 settlements across the country. These smallholdings were run as cooperatives, but many failed when relocated families complained of long hours, low pay and isolation. Recruitment to the scheme ceased at the outbreak of World War II, with the settlements being fully dissolved and privatised in 1983. By drawing on a unique archive housed in the Museum of English Rural Life (MERL), analysis centres on how the LSA represented and promoted rural living to settlers and the wider public. The paper illuminates three overlapping but distinct elements to this project: the production of physical space as a setting that has been designed to bring about particular forms of behaviour and community cohesion; notions of labour, independence of spirit and reconnecting with the land; and building the physiques of men through hard work, fresh air and good food, thus improving the national stock. The findings demonstrate the power of the rural idyll in producing particular forms of sociality, belonging and masculinity, with many of the ideas that undergirded the LSA continuing to resonate today.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Life Sciences > School of Agriculture, Policy and Development > Department of International Development
ID Code:93455


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