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The Myth of the Peasant in the Global Organic Farming Movement


Organic farming activists have promoted the idea that ancient peasant wisdom informed the basic principles or Albert Howard’s Indore method, and of organic farming generally. The myth of the peasant origins of organic farming has influenced environmental activists and historians alike and concealed the remarkable contributions of Albert Howard and his first and second wives, Gabrielle and Louise Howard. A few statements made by Howard himself, and by his second wife, Louise, inspired the myth of peasant origins of organic wisdom. But a closer look at the published and unpublished writings of the Howards show that the formulation of the Indore method, which lies at the heart of organic farming, is a strict scientific protocol with its roots in the scientific work of Albert Howard and his cohorts.

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Gregory A. Barton is Professor of History at Western Sydney University and Senior Research Associate in the Faculty of Humanities at the University of Johannesburg. Address: Professor Gregory A. Barton, Western Sydney University, School of Humanities and Communication Arts, Locked Bag 1797, Penrith, NSW, 2751, Australia. 61 (02) 9772 6322. The author thanks the Matthai family for making private family archives available for this work.

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Unpublished primary sources
Letters of Gabrielle Howard to her mother, 1913–29. Private collection held by the Matthaei family, Birmingham, UK.
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