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Agricultural science and the Development Commission: the Olby account revisited

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If you have a question about this talk, please contact Sophie Waring.

In his 1991 paper ‘Social imperialism and state support for agricultural research in Edwardian Britain’, Robert Olby argued that the origins of a programme for nationally funded research lie with the creation of the Development Commission in 1909. More recent research, however, suggests that this picture needs correction in at least two ways. One problem is that the scientific institutions built by the Commission were dependent upon a network of centres for agricultural science that had been created by the Board of Agriculture over the previous twenty years. A related problem is that this network was also part of a programme for the funding of agricultural research, also of the Board’s creation. In this talk I will aim to outline the case for these revisions and also sketch some of their consequences for the historical understanding of agriculture in Britain in the early 20th century, but more generally for the introduction of nationally funded research in the history of science.

This talk is part of the Cabinet of Natural History series.

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