by Way of
the Soil


G.T. Wrench

Faber and Faber Ltd
24 Russell Square

First published in Mcmxlvi
by Faber and Faber Limited
24 Russell Square London W.C.1
Printed in Great Britain by
Latimer Trend & Co Ltd Plymouth
All rights reserved

This book by Dr. Wrench enters a field very different from that of his Wheel of Life and challenges judgment and criticism of a different kind. It is nothing less than an outline history of the relation between civilization and the soil: which means that it is not only a brief universal history of agriculture but much more besides. No work of scholarship could be devoted to a purpose more useful to mankind at any time, and at the present time none could fill a more urgent need. There is, we believe, nothing of the kind in existence; and if there were it would be out of date, since so vast a quantity of new and important knowledge on the subject has lately become available.

Dr. Wrench has the advantage of many years' experience of agrobiological affairs in this country and in India. He gives us here a series of brief histories and striking examples of the effects of civilizations upon their primary biological resources. He first states the essential principles of sound agronomy; then he gives examples of their fulfilment or violation in China, Mesopotamia, the Roman Empire and in Islamic Spain; in England through the centuries, in Africa since the coming of the Europeans, in Egypt and India and the Dutch Empire, in the British Dominions and colonies, in the U.S.S.R. and in the U.S.A. to-day. Dr. Wrench's plea for the recognition of natural laws in the symbiosis of soil and civilization is supported by impressive evidence; and his thesis is of the first importance, not only to agronomists, but to students of politics and to all who are concerned with the future of our damaged civilization.

Lord Northbourne

My friend is that one whom I can associate with my choicest thought. -- Thoreau


In the construction of this book, I am indebted to many living authors, whose words I have quoted in my text. Amongst them, I feel I owe an especial tribute and apology to Mrs. Elspeth Huxley for the use I have made of her book The Red Strangers, a tribute in my immeasurable admiration for her exquisite story, an apology in that, being in India, I have not been able personally to visit her to explain my enforced encroachment.

In my faith in primary value of the soil I have been greatly strengthened by the books of two honoured friends, the Earl of Portsmouth's Alternative to Death and Lord Northbourne's Look to the Land.

The Earl's book, published in 1943, has only recently reached me. With a general outlook closely similar to my own, the author has something which I do not possess, namely, an intimate, personal knowledge of all that pertains to the soil of Britain. His book constitutes the comprehensive guide for which all workers, determined to give a sane, terrene basis to our national life, have been looking.

Lord Northbourne's book was published in 1940, and it has been my frequent companion in the three years which I have taken in the actual writing of this book. Lord Northbourne has also helped me in ways surpassing the usual kindness of friendship. He has taken full charge of the typescript of the book in England, and, by a careful study of the text, has assisted me with most acceptable criticisms.

Lastly, I desire to thank my friend, Dr. Haji Kassim, for his great help in the compilation of the twenty-first and twenty-second chapters.


Table of Contents
1. Introductory
2. Rome
3. The Roman Foods
4. The Roman Family
5. Roman Soil Erosion
6. Farmers and Nomads
I. The Land
II. The Nomads
III. The Farmers
IV. Nomadic Migrations and Farmers
7. Contrasting Pictures
8. Banks for the Soil
9. Economics of the Soil
10. The English Peasant and Agricultural Labourer
11. Primitive Farmers
12. Nyasa
13. Tanganyika
14. 'Earth Thou Art'
15. Sind and Egypt
16. Fragmentation
17. East and West Indies
18. German Colonies: The Mandates
19. Russia, South Africa, Australia
South Africa
20. The United States of America
21. A Kingdom of Agricultural Art in Europe
22. An Historical Reconstruction
The Initiation
The Institution
The Achievement
23. Recapitulation
24. Action

Chapter 1

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