Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
Home
Hostname: page-component-7ccbd9845f-dxj8b Total loading time: 0.279 Render date: 2023-01-31T04:17:40.896Z Has data issue: true Feature Flags: { "useRatesEcommerce": false } hasContentIssue true

The Role of Social Networks in Agricultural Innovation: The Sutherland Reclamations and the Fowler Steam Plough, c.1855-c.1885

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  04 September 2014

ANNIE TINDLEY
Affiliation:
School of Humanities, University of Dundee, Nethergate, Dundee, DD1 4HN, Scotland, UKa.tindley@dundee.ac.uk
ANDREW WODEHOUSE
Affiliation:
Department of Design, Manufacture and Engineering Management, University of Strathclyde, 75 Montrose Street, Glasgow, G1 1XJ, Scotland, UKandrew.wodehouse@strath.ac.uk

Abstract:

The nineteenth century saw an explosion in creativity and innovation, often applied to and motivated by an urge to improve, refine and make more efficient industrial and agricultural processes. There were many innovations in the field of agriculture, supported by the sponsorship of societies and associations and, in the 1850s and 1860s, by strong investment under High Farming. This article examines one of these innovations, the steam plough, with reference to its application in the Scottish Highlands in the 1870s and 1880s. In particular, it illuminates the social networks which lay behind the development and utilisation of the steam plough in the rural Highland context, delineating how aristocratic, religious and local networks combined to have a major impact on rural society in Scotland and beyond. It will examine how these networks interacted to promote the contemporary culture for agricultural and rural innovation through the development of the Fowler's steam plough. What makes this example of particular interest is the fact that agriculturally and financially, the Sutherland land reclamations were an unconditional failure. The environment was too challenging for the technology and despite vast financial resources, the landowner, the third Duke of Sutherland, was, after fifteen years, finally convinced by his advisors that further efforts were futile and irresponsible. This article will interrogate why, despite its essential unfeasibility, the project was pursued, and will argue that the momentum created by the dynamic between the three networks involved propelled it forward despite growing evidence of failure. This article therefore uses an inductive approach by examining a particular example of agricultural design innovation and analysing the pertinent social issues in what would have been termed by contemporaries ‘entrepreneurial spirit’.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2014 

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)

References

Notes

1. Inverness Courier, 6th August 1874.

2. O’Brien, P. K., ‘Agriculture and the Industrial Revolution’, Economic History Review, 30 (1977)Google Scholar; Mathias, P., The First Industrial Nation: The Economic History of Britain, 1700–1914 (London, 1969), pp. 308–19Google Scholar; Macdonald, S., ‘Agricultural Improvement and the Neglected Labourer’, Agricultural History Review, 31 (1982), 81Google Scholar; Caunce, S. A., ‘Mechanisation and Society in English Agriculture: The Experience of the North-East, 1850–1914’, Rural History, 17:1 (2006), 2345CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

3. See for instance, Fyfe, A., Steam-Powered Knowledge: William Chambers and the Business of Publishing, 1820–1860 (Chicago, 2012)CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Hylton, S., The Grand Experiment: The Birth of the Railway Age: 1820–45 (Surrey, 2007), pp. 145–62Google Scholar.

4. Please see for a comparative case study Macdonald, S., ‘The Progress of the Early Threshing Machine’, Agricultural History Review, 13 (1975), 6377Google Scholar.

5. Bonnett, H., Farming with Steam (Aylesbury, 1974), p. 10Google Scholar.

6. Lane, M. R., The Story of the Steam Plough Works: Fowlers of Leeds (London, 1979), pp. 66–7Google Scholar. In all, Fowler and Company set up branches in France, Spain, Italy, Germany, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, India, the East Indies, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand. The records of these operations are in the Fowler archive at the Museum of English Rural Life, TR FOW, AC8/1-18, AC7/1, AC8/46, AC8/48-50, CO1/9-14.

7. Mathias, The First Industrial Nation; Sheail, J., ‘Land Improvement and Reclamation: The Experiences of the First World War in England and Wales’, Agricultural History Review, 24 (1976), 110–25Google Scholar.

8. For example, the Marquis of Bute (docks), Lord Londonderry (mining), the dukes of Buccleuch (mining); see Mingay, G. E., Land and Society in England, 1750–1980 (London, 1994), pp. 195–6Google Scholar; Caunce, ‘Mechanisation and Society’, 24; Chambers, J. D. and Mingay, G. E., The Agricultural Revolution, 1750–1880 (London, 1966), pp. 170–95Google Scholar; Grigg, D. B., English Agriculture: An Historical Perspective (London, 1989)Google Scholar; Hart, N. and Quinault, R., eds, Land and Society in Britain, 1700–1914: Essays in Honour of F. M. L. Thompson (Manchester, 1996)Google Scholar.

9. Richards, E., ‘Gower, George Granville Leveson, first duke of Sutherland (1758–1833)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford, 2004)Google Scholar.

10. Richards, E., ‘An Anatomy of the Sutherland Fortune: Income, Consumption, Investments and Returns, 1780–1880’, Business History, 21 (1979), 46, 52–3CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Duke, Fifth of Sutherland, Looking Back: The Autobiography of the 5th Duke of Sutherland (London, 1957), pp. 33–4Google Scholar; Macdonald, ‘Agricultural Improvement’, 81–2.

11. Staffordshire County Record Office, Sutherland estates papers, D593/P/24/7/6; Orr, W., Deer Forests, Landlords and Crofters: The Western Highlands in Victorian and Edwardian Times (Edinburgh, 1982), p. 16Google Scholar.

12. Steam ploughs were not labour-saving devices: National Library of Scotland, Sutherland Estates Papers, Acc. 10225, Reclamations, 5, ‘Lairg and Kildonan Reclamations: Statement as to Cost’, 1892; Caunce, ‘Mechanisation and Society’, 24, 38.

13. Tindley, A., ‘“The Iron Duke”: Land Reclamation and Public Relations in Sutherland, 1868–95’, Historical Research, 82: 216 (2009), 311CrossRefGoogle Scholar. Other landlords faced similar failures, for instance the Duke of Northumberland; please see Chambers and Mingay, Agricultural Revolution, p. 177; Caunce, ‘Mechanisation and Society’, 35; Snowball, J., ‘Reports on Steam Cultivation by Machinery Let by the Landlord as Practised on the Northumberland Estate of his Grace the Duke of Northumberland’, Journal of the Royal Agricultural Society of England, 2nd ser., 6, (1870)Google Scholar.

14. Mathias, First Industrial Nation, pp. 141–7.

15. For a related social constructionist discussion on an alternative technology, please see Watt, K., ‘Making Drain Tiles a “Home Manufacture”: Agricultural Consumers and the Social Construction of Clayworking Technology in the 1840s’, Rural History, 13:1 (2002), 41–3CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

16. Roberts, C. G., ‘Sutherland Reclamations’, Journal of the Royal Agricultural Society of England, 2nd ser., 15 (1879), 404Google Scholar; Hallas, C., ‘The Social and Economic Impact of a Rural Railway: The Wensleydale Line’, Agricultural History Review, 34 (1986), 2944Google Scholar.

17. Cannadine, D., The Decline and Fall of the British Aristocracy (London, 1990), pp. 2532Google Scholar.

18. Bonnett, H., Saga of the Steam Plough (Newton Abbot, 1974), pp. 2433Google Scholar; Sheail, ‘Land Improvement and Reclamation’, 110–11.

19. See for instance, Duke of Bedford, A Great Agricultural Estate: Being the Story of the Origin and Administration of Woburn and Thorney (London, 1897); Mingay, G. E., The Victorian Countryside, volume ii (London, 1981)Google Scholar.

20. Mackenzie, J. M., Empires of Nature and the Nature of Empires: Imperialism, Scotland and the Environment (East Linton, 1997), pp. 6670Google Scholar.

21. Caird, J., English Agriculture in 1850–51 (London, 1851)Google Scholar; Adams, I. H., ‘Economic Process and The Scottish Land Surveyor’, Imago Mundi, 27 (1975), 1318Google Scholar; Adams, I. H., ‘The Agents of Agricultural Change’, in Parry, M. L. and Slater, T. R., eds, The Making of the Scottish Countryside (London, 1980), pp. 159–60, 167–9Google Scholar; Devine, T. M., ‘The Transformation of Agriculture: Cultivation and Clearance’, in Devine, T. M., Lee, C. H. and Peden, G. C., eds, The Transformation of Scotland: The Economy since 1700 (Edinburgh, 2005), pp. 79, 87Google Scholar; Macdonald, ‘Agricultural Improvement’, pp. 82–3.

22. Chambers and Mingay, Agricultural Revolution, p. 170.

23. Hunter, J., The Making of the Crofting Community (Edinburgh, 1976), pp. 107–8Google Scholar; Richards, E., The Highland Clearances: People, Landlords and Rural Turmoil (Edinburgh, 2008), pp. 153–4Google Scholar.

24. Chambers and Mingay, Agricultural Revolution, p. 171.

25. Winter, J., Secure from Rash Assault: Sustaining the Victorian Environment (Oakland, CA, 1999), pp. 62–3Google Scholar. Although High Farming strove for technological efficiency, it was not often economically efficient; see Chambers and Mingay, Agricultural Revolution, p. 177; Macdonald, ‘The Progress of the Early Threshing Machine’, p. 71.

26. National Library of Scotland, Acc. 10225, Policy Papers, 69, Wright to Peacock, 14th July 1871; 70, Wright to Peacock, 7th May 1877; see also Lane, Story of the Steam Plough Works, pp. 66–7.

27. Fyfe, Steam Powered Knowledge, pp. 31–9.

28. Winter, Secure from Rash Assault, pp. 9–11; Bonnett, Farming with Steam, pp. 7–8.

29. Bonnett, Saga of the Steam Plough, pp. 26–7; Winter, Secure from Rash Assault, p. 63.

30. Museum of English Rural Life, TR FOW DO2/1 and 2, drawings, registers, 1860s–1892; Bonnett, Farming with Steam, pp.12–13; Lane, Story of the Steam Plough Works, pp. 93–4.

31. Roberts, ‘Sutherland Reclamations’, pp. 417–21.

32. Lane, Story of the Steam Plough Works, pp. 96–7.

33. Roberts, ‘Sutherland Reclamation’, p. 426; Lane, Story of the Steam Plough Works, pp. 96–7.

34. For more on the technology in the imperial context, see Pickard, J., ‘Wire Fences in Colonial Australia: Technology Transfer and Adaptation, 1842–1900’, Rural History, 21:1 (2010), 2758CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Lane, Story of the Steam Plough Works, pp. 96–7.

35. Museum of English Rural Life, TR FOW, letters patent, specifications, licences, agreements and patent litigation, C05/33/8, No. 3151 (1872, 1873); CO5/33/12, No. 319 (1874); C05/33/38, No. 2938 (1877).

36. For instance, see Punch, 26th January 1878.

37. Tindley, A., The Sutherland Estate, 1850–1920: Aristocratic Decline, Estate Management and Land Reform (Edinburgh, 2010), p. 4Google Scholar.

38. Cannadine, Decline and Fall, p. 710.

39. Tindley, Sutherland Estate, p. 4.

40. Richards, ‘An Anatomy’, p. 46.

41. See for instance, Birmingham Daily Post, 9th September 1872; Inverness Courier, 6th August 1874 for use of this imagery; also, Macinnes, A. I., Clanship, Commerce and the House of Stuart, 1603–1788 (East Linton, 1996), pp. 210–11, 221–8Google Scholar.

42. See for instance the Sutherland manifesto written by Loch, James, architect of the clearances, An Account of the Improvements Made on the Estates of the Marquis of Stafford (London, 1820)Google Scholar; Roberts, ‘Sutherland Reclamations’, p. 486.

43. See for instance Times, 7th September 1874; 14th September 1874; Scotsman, 17th September 1872.

44. Cannadine, D., Aspects of Aristocracy: Grandeur and Decline in Modern Britain (London, 1994), p. 60Google Scholar.

45. Richards, ‘An Anatomy’, pp. 52–3.

46. Cain, P. J. and Hopkins, A. G., British Imperialism: Innovation and Expansion, 1688–1914 (London, 1993), pp. 23–5, 53–82, 388Google Scholar; For instance in East Africa: J. Forbes Munro, Maritime, Enterprise and Empire: Sir William Mackinnon and his Business Network, 1823–93 (Woodbridge, 2003), pp. 215–21, 287–90.

47. Womack, P., Improvement and Romance: Constructing the Myth of the Highlands (Basingstoke, 1989), pp. 74–8CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

48. Fifth Duke, Looking Back, pp. 33–5.

49. Fifth Duke, Looking Back, pp. 66–7.

50. Lane, Story of the Steam Plough Works, p. 90.

51. Walvin, J., The Quakers: Money and Morals (London, 1998)Google Scholar.

52. Hannah, L., ‘The Moral Economy of Business: A Historical Perspective on Ethics and Efficiency’, in Burke, P., Harrison, B. and Slack, P., Civil Histories: Essays presented to Sir Keith Thomas (Oxford, 2000), pp. 285–6, 289Google Scholar; Lane, Story of the Steam Plough Works, p. 1.

53. Walvin, Quakers: Money and Morals; Hannah, ‘Moral Economy’, pp. 289, 292.

54. Windsor, D. B., The Quaker Enterprise: Friends in Business (London, 1980)Google Scholar. Often, these networks were based on key families, and this was the case with the Fowlers and others. Other businesses founded by Quakers included Barclays and Lloyds banks, Allen and Hanbury pharmaceuticals, Huntley and Palmer biscuits, Cadbury's, Fry's and Rowntree's chocolate, and Clark's shoes.

55. Collins, E. J. T., Steam in Agriculture (Reading, 1973)Google Scholar; Tyler, C., Digging by Steam (Watford, 1977), p. 127Google Scholar.

56. Lane, Story of the Steam Plough Works, 7.

57. Highland and Agricultural Society, 1878.

58. Lane, Story of the Steam Plough Works, p. 65.

59. Thomas Fowler, brother of John and Robert, for example, was a cotton trader based in Alexandria and assisted Fowler and Company in gaining a foothold in that country: Lane, Story of the Steam Plough Works, pp. 63, 68, 77.

60. Mathias, First Industrial Nation, pp. 181–2; Macdonald, ‘Progress of the Early Threshing Machine’, p. 6; Wrigley, E. A., Continuity, Chance and Change: The Character of the Industrial Revolution in England (London, 1988)CrossRefGoogle Scholar; for patents relevant to the Sutherland plough see Museum of English Rural Life, TR FOW, C05/33/8, No. 3151 (1872, 1873); CO5/33/12, No. 319 (1874); C05/33/38, No. 2938 (1877).

61. Bonnett, Saga of the Steam Plough, pp. 65–82.

62. Hannah, ‘Moral Economy’, pp. 249–99; Lane, Story of the Steam Plough Works, p. 66.

63. Lane, Story of the Steam Plough Works, p. 93.

64. Lane, Story of the Steam Plough Works, pp. 5–6, 61, 93.

65. For instance, the firm that handled Fowler's Egyptian business was Briggs and Company of Alexandria, the same firm that represented Ransomes, Sims and Jefferies, a Norfolk based Quaker operation; Lane, Story of the Steam Plough Works, p. 65.

66. Lane, Story of the Steam Plough Works, p. 62.

67. Lane, Story of the Steam Plough Works, p. 61.

68. Winter, Secure from Rash Assault, p. 73.

69. Lane, Story of the Steam Plough Works, p. 90.

70. Pickard, ‘Wire Fences in Colonial Australia’, 28, for another successful colonial transfer; Lane, Story of the Steam Plough Works, p. 91.

71. Lane, Story of the Steam Plough Works, p. 96.

72. Roberts, ‘Sutherland Reclamation’, 409.

73. Museum of English Rural Life, TR FOW, CO5/33/8: No. 3151; CO5/33/12: No. 319; C05/33/38, No. 2938; Lane, Story of the Steam Plough Works, p. 93.

74. Museum of English Rural Life, TR FOW, SP2 records of work events; Winter, Secure from Rash Assault, p. 74; Lane, Story of the Steam Plough Works, p. 95; Inverness Courier, 6th August 1874.

75. Hannah, ‘Moral Economy’, p. 299.

76. Tindley, ‘The Iron Duke’, 304.

77. For example, Times, 12th September 1876; Cannadine, Aspects of Aristocracy, p. 183.

78. See Cameron, E. A., Land for the People? The British Government and the Scottish Highlands, c.1880–1925 (East Linton, 1996)Google Scholar.

79. Hunter, Crofting Community, p. 63; Tyler, C. and Haining, J., Ploughing by Steam: A History of Steam Cultivation over the Years (Hemel Hempstead, 1970), pp. 23–5Google Scholar; Macdonald, ‘Agricultural Improvement’, pp. 83–7.

80. Highland News, 23rd July 1883, editorial; Collins, E. J. T., ‘The Rationality of “Surplus” Agricultural Labour: Mechanisation in English Agriculture in the Nineteenth Century’, Agricultural History Review, 31 (1987), 3646Google Scholar.

81. A story related by one of the factors to the Napier Commission about the Duke's confidence ran as follows: ‘the Duke of Sutherland one day, standing on the hill pasture, asked me, would it not be a good thing for the employment of the people if we were to set a-going a small farm here, on which we could show the people what crops could be grown by proper trenching and draining and farming.’ PP. 1884, xxxii-xxxvi [C. 3980 I–IV] Evidence of the Commission of Inquiry into the Condition of the crofters and cottars of the Highlands and Islands of Scotland, [hereafter Napier Commission Evidence] Evander McIver, p. 1763.

82. National Library of Scotland, Acc. 10225, Reclamations, 5, ‘Lairg and Kildonan Reclamations: Statement as to Cost’ (1892).

83. Census of Scotland, 1911 (Edinburgh, 1912), p. 2233; Hunter, Making of the Crofting Community, pp. 107–8.

84. See for example, Times, 7th September 1874.

85. See for example, Napier Commission Evidence, pp. 1704–31, 1764–70; Bonnett, Farming with Steam, p. 14.

86. Hunter, Crofting Community, pp. 131–3; Winter, Secure from Rash Assault, p. 75.

87. Tindley, Sutherland Estate, pp. 58–64.

88. Tindley, ‘The Iron Duke’, 316–17.

89. Roberts, ‘Sutherland Reclamation’, 441

90. See for instance Staffordshire County Record Office, D593/V/6/79, ‘Report on the Sutherland Reclamations by the President and Secretary of the Scottish Chamber of Agriculture’, July 1878; Roberts, ‘Sutherland Reclamation’, 467; National Library of Scotland, Acc. 10225, Policy Papers, 93, Loch to Peacock, 1st December 1872.

91. Van de Ven, A. H., ‘A Community Perspective on the Emergence of Innovations’, Journal of Engineering and Technology Management, 10 (1993), 2351CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

92. Cannadine, Decline and Fall, pp. 133–4.

93. National Library of Scotland, Acc. 10225, Reclamations, 42, table: ‘Statement as to Cost and Rent of Reclaimed Farms’, 1883.

2
Cited by

Save article to Kindle

To save this article to your Kindle, first ensure coreplatform@cambridge.org is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about saving to your Kindle.

Note you can select to save to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations. ‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

The Role of Social Networks in Agricultural Innovation: The Sutherland Reclamations and the Fowler Steam Plough, c.1855-c.1885
Available formats
×

Save article to Dropbox

To save this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you used this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Dropbox account. Find out more about saving content to Dropbox.

The Role of Social Networks in Agricultural Innovation: The Sutherland Reclamations and the Fowler Steam Plough, c.1855-c.1885
Available formats
×

Save article to Google Drive

To save this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you used this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Google Drive account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

The Role of Social Networks in Agricultural Innovation: The Sutherland Reclamations and the Fowler Steam Plough, c.1855-c.1885
Available formats
×
×

Reply to: Submit a response

Please enter your response.

Your details

Please enter a valid email address.

Conflicting interests

Do you have any conflicting interests? *