Document Reference NumberULA/D23
Acc No2014/14
TitleThe Joan Thirsk Collection
DescriptionJoan Thirsk (1922-2013) was an editor of The Agrarian History of England and Wales and this collection contains data collected for volumes 4 (1500-1640) and 5 (1640-1750) of the work.
It includes carefully assembled and meticulously transcribed probate inventories, terriers, manorial records and surveys arranged alphabetically by county. The material, collected from the Public Record Office (now The National Archives) and local record offices throughout the country, was gathered by such well qualified researchers as L.M. Midgley, following a template which enabled comparisons to be made across the country. Much of the material contains information which could be used for new investigations, for example into the layout of houses and the types of farm building, of which only limited use was made in the completed Agarian History volumes. A second accession comprises ongoing research notes, book reviews and ephemera on a range of topics loosely allied to agricultural history
Extent10 linear metres
ArrangementThe material was received as two discrete accessions. The first comprised files compiled in preparation for Volumes 4 and 5 of the "Agrarian History of England and Wales" series. The second comprised working files compiled subsequently on a range of different subjects, possibly for personal interest as well as potential publication. Each accession comprises a separate section of the catalogue.
AdminHistoryA distinguished historian of the early modern economy and society, Joan Thirsk was a major influence on the development of agrarian history. After a degree in modern languages, and a period at Bletchley Park during World War II, she undertook postgraduate research on the history of the crown lands at the University of London. In 1951, following a brief spell as assistant lecturer in sociology at London School of Economics, she was appointed by W.G. Hoskins to the position of senior research fellow in agrarian history in the Department of English Local History at the University College, Leicester. Whilst on the staff at Leicester she researched and wrote a book on peasant farming in Lincolnshire, which challenged the traditional methodologies of agrarian historical research. She championed the use of original manuscript material as a way of reconstructing rural communities and exploring the regional differences between them. During the 1950s, a scheme for the development of an Agrarian History of England and Wales was driven forward by H.P.R. Finberg, who had succeeded Hoskins as the head of the Department of English Local History. Thirsk devised a strategy for writing volume 4 of the series, devoted to the period 1500-1640, with such success that it was published in 1967, well ahead of the other volumes. She realised the importance of reflecting the variety of the English regions in the volume, and a modest amount of funding allowed researchers to be employed to gather documentation from record offices throughout the country. In particular the probate inventories were systematically calendared and summarised, which provided accurate evidence of the types of crops, animals and equipment found in each region, thereby allowing the different farming systems to be identified. Thirsk stayed at Leicester for fourteen years before taking up a post as reader in economic history at Oxford University. Whilst there she edited volume 5 of the Agrarian History, and broadened her research interests into areas such alternative agriculture and early modern food. She retired from her post at Oxford in 1983, but remained actively involved in research for some time and continued to publish until 1995. For her outstanding contribution to agrarian history she was elected in to the British Academy in 1974 and made a Companion of the British Empire in 1995.
AccessConditionsSome of the collection is stored off-site. Please allow a minimum of 2 working days' notice for retrieval.
AccessStatusAvailable for general access
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