|Dimensions||Image 180 x 222 mm|
A rare print of the English Agricultural Societie's Dinner, in Queen's College Quadrangle, Oxford, July 17th 1839.
In 1838, the first full year of Queen Victoria's reign, a group of landowners, journalists and others interested in agriculture met to see if they could something about the stagnation that had overtaken English countryside in the previous 20 years. When the Napoleonic war ended at the Battle of Waterloo, in 1815, the labour market was flooded with demobbed soldiers, particularly in southern England. The acute unemployment provoked a reaction against "new-fangled" machines that did jobs previously done by labourers. Hence the Luddite movement in the towns, and the "Captain Swing" riots in the countryside, when farm workers smashed up the new threshing machines. Scientific advancement in agriculture came to a halt, by popular demand. But 20 years on, the land was not producing enough to feed a growing population, and an agricultural society was founded to revive interest in agricultural science. One of its first initiatives, before it was granted a Royal Charter in 1840, was to hold an agricultural show in Oxford in 1839. Since then, it has been held every year except in wartime, or when it was prevented by cattle plague or foot-and-mouth.