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Dr Paul Brassley

Honorary University Fellow


01392 722438

Dr Paul Brassley took a BSc (Hons) in agriculture and agricultural economics at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne in 1969. He then moved to the School of Modern History in the University of Oxford, where, under the supervision of Dr Joan Thirsk, he wrote a thesis on the agricultural economy of North East England in the period 1640-1750 for the degree of B.Litt. (1974), subsequently (1985) published in the Garland Press series of theses in modern British economic history. In 1974 he was appointed to a lectureship in agricultural economics at Seale-Hayne College in Devon, which subsequently became part of the University of Plymouth. Between 2004 and 2009 he transferred to the University’s School of Geography. Much of his teaching over this period was concerned with agricultural economics and rural policy, as reflected in the publication of his textbook Agricultural Economics and the CAP: an introduction (1997).
     His research, with the exception of some work on landscape perception, has been concerned with rural history. Apart from a scholarly edition of the Crakanthorp notebooks from the late 17th century (published by the Cambridgeshire Records Society in 1988) and the work on North East England mentioned above, his work has been mostly concerned with the later nineteenth and twentieth centuries. He was a major contributor to volume VII of The Agrarian History of England and Wales, (1850-1914) with chapters on agricultural science, education, and various aspects of agricultural technology. This material, together with several articles on agricultural science and technology in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, formed the basis of his PhD awarded by the University of Plymouth in 2001. In recent years much of his work has been concerned with the history of various aspects of agricultural output and technical change, but he has also written about rural crafts and trades in the twentieth century, European land reform, and international trade. He contributed to the new Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, and (with Richard Soffe) wrote the volume on Agriculture for the Oxford University Press series of Very Short Introductions; a translation into Chinese was published in 2018. He was on the Executive Committee of the British Agricultural History Society (BAHS) for many years, and was its Chair from 2005 to 2009, during which time he was much involved in establishing the European Rural History Organisation (EURHO), which at its last conference in Uppsala in 2022 brought together 363 participants from 36 countries. He was President of the BAHS from 2019 to 2022.
     In 2009 he was appointed to a Senior Research Fellowship at the University of Exeter to work on economic and technical change in post-Second World War UK agriculture. This resulted in the publication of The Real Agricultural Revolution: the transformation of English farming, 1939-1985, written in association with David Harvey, Matt Lobley and Michael Winter (Boydell, 2021). It won the BAHS’s Thirsk Prize for the best book on agricultural history published in the year.
     From September to December 2012 he was Visiting Professor of Rural History in the Facultade de Xeographía e Historia at the University of Santiago de Compostela, Spain. He retired from paid employment in early 2013, and was appointed to an Honorary University Fellowship at Exeter. In March 2020 he held a visiting chair at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales in Paris. Since 2022 he has been a member of the Editorial Board of Notes Académiques, published by the French Academy of Agriculture.


Research interests

UK agricultural policy and technology 1870-1970

UK agriculture and the threat of nuclear war 1945-1970

The home front in the UK in the Second World War

Rural Devon in the 1920s

Other information



Paul Brassley, ‘The 1929 Crisis from the Perspective of a Food-Importing Country: the United Kingdom, 1928-35’, in G. Béaur and F. Chiapparino (eds), Agriculture and the Great Depression, London: Routledge,  pp. 59-76



Paul Brassley, ‘Technical Change and Knowledge Networks in England, 1945-1980s’, in Yves Segers and Leen Van Molle (eds), Agricultural Knowledge Networks in Rural Europe, 1700-2000, Woodbridge: Boydell Press, pp. 199 – 217

Paul Brassley, ‘Twentieth-Century Georgic and Agricultural Technology’, in P. Bullard (ed.), A History of English Georgic Writing, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,  pp. 99-117.

Paul Brassley and Richard Soffe, Agriculture: A Very Short Introduction, (Chinese Translation) Nanjing: Yilin Press



P. Brassley, D.C. Harvey, M. Lobley and M. Winter, The Real Agricultural Revolution: the transformation of English farming, 1939-1985, Woodbridge: Boydell Press. Paperback edition 2023.

Paul Brassley, ‘Cynddylan at the tipping point’, blog for the AHRC Changing Landscapes, Changing Lives Network,  at Posted 8 November

Paul Brassley, Antonio Furió et Alessandro Stanziani, ‘Nourrir la population: un défi permanent, table ronde animée par Nadine Vivier’, Le Mouvement Social, no. 277,  pp. 21-34


Selected earlier publications

Paul Brassley, 2018, ‘Pig Clubs and Backyard Chickens: the significance of household producers in Britain in the Second World War’, Agricultural History Review 66(1), pp.93-111. ISSN 0002-1490

Paul Brassley (with photographs selected by Anne Parkinson), 2018, Interwar Ilsington, Ilsington History Group: Special Publication No.2

Paul Brassley and Richard Soffe, 2016, Agriculture: A Very Short Introduction, Oxford University Press, 2016. ISBN 978-0-19-872596-1


Carin Martiin, Juan Pan-Montojo and Paul Brassley (eds), 2016, Agriculture in Capitalist Europe: from food shortages to food surpluses, London: Routledge, 2016, ISBN 978-1-4724-6965-6

Paul Brassley, ‘Electrifying farms in England’, in P. Brassley, J. Burchardt and K. Sayer (eds), 2016, Transforming the Countryside: the electrification of rural Britain, London: Routledge, pp.83-114

Paul Brassley, Yves Segers, and Leen Van Molle (eds), 2012, War, Agriculture and Food: Rural Europe from the 1930s to the 1950s. New York and London: Routledge.

Paul Brassley, 2006, ‘Wartime Productivity and innovation, 1939-45’, in B. Short, C. Watkins and J. Martin (eds), The Front Line of Freedom: British farming in the Second World War (Supplement to the Agricultural History Review) pp.36-54

Paul Brassley, 2007, ‘Cutting across nature? The history of artificial insemination of pigs in the United Kingdom’, Studies in history and philosophy of biological and biomedical sciences, 38 (2) June 2007, 442-461. doi: 10.1016/j.shpsc.2007.03.008

P.Brassley, J.Burchardt and L.Thompson (eds), 2006. The English countryside between the wars: regeneration or decline?, Woodbridge: the Boydell Press. 

Paul Brassley, 2000, ‘Output and technical change in twentieth-century British agriculture’, Agricultural History Review  vol.48 part 1 pp.60-84

Paul Brassley, 2000, (Editor and contributor) part 2 of The Agrarian History of England and Wales  vol vii, 1850-1914 ed. E.J.T.Collins (Cambridge UP)   

Paul Brassley, 1998, On the Unrecognized Significance of the Ephemeral Landscape.  Landscape Research,  23 (2), 119-132 

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