I got the tip to check out the British television series “The Victorian Farm” by artist/author/blogger James Gurney, and I got sucked right in! The concept is irresistible: a team of archeologists and historians live on a historic farm for a year, demonstrating and re-discovering how the work was done and how people lived.
The first in the series is “Tales from the Green Valley“, where they re-create life on a Jacobean farm in Wales – we are talking about the early 1600´s, Shakespeare´s days. That series was so successful that they went on to make “The Victorian Farm”, “The Edwardian Farm“, and “Wartime Farm“, which I am currently watching (this was also made into a course at the Open University). There is also “Secrets of the Castle” and “Tudor Monastery Farm“.
I have to issue a bit of a warning: this stuff is addictive. I couldn´t find all the episodes on youtube in the Edwardian series, and some of the episodes are a bit wonky. Naturally, they want you to buy the dvd-sets. And the books. It´s like a little industry, and at its heart you find Ruth Goodman, my new idol, and Peter Ginn, who are both in all of the series. Up to “Wartime Farm” there is also Alex Langlands, who has since returned to academia. These three make a great team, and I can´t get enough of them.
It really is fascinating to learn all those things that the regular history books fail to mention: what people ate, how they slept, how they worked, how they managed waste, how they socialized. When it comes to “Wartime Farm” I was surprised at how much new information they had on how farming, and the whole country, really, was managed during the Second World War, a period in history I think I am fairly well read on. Ruth Goodman is endlessly fascinated and fascinating, with her infectious enthusiasm. It is also quite moving to see these two young men, academics and (or so I imagine) city boys, bond with the animals, bringing lambs and piglets into the world. I recommend this warmly.