A History of the Ministry of Information, 1939-46




The Ministry of Agriculture is now directing the whole of agricultural production in England and Wales and at the same time it is endeavouring to increase output and to improve the quality of products by raising the general level of farming technique.

This wartime policy is a part of a long-term policy designed to raise the whole level of English agriculture. Two important ways in which the policy of the Ministry is carried out is by publicity media of all kinds and through the machinery of the County War Agricultural Executive Committees.

This inquiry was designed to obtain some basic information useful to the department of the Ministry of Agriculture concerned with publicity, to check up the effectiveness of the existing publicity and to find out how far practice had been influenced by it.

The survey included, therefore, an account of the farmer, his origin and education, his sources of advice including his experience with his County Committee the papers and journals that he read, and in a section related to the long-term policy of the Ministry, his attitude to general and technical education.


The Wartime Social Survey had a number of discussions with the Ministry of Agriculture who placed its problems before the Survey in broad terms and asked how the Survey could throw light on the most effective ways of getting information to farmers. The Wartime Social Survey organised a series of pilot inquiries during which Gloucester, Somerset, Cambridge, Norfolk and Essex were visited and the problems discussed with a number of the officials of the County Committees, and the officials of the Ministry of Agriculture.

A final questionnaire was then drafted and submitted to the sample of farmers described below.


The Sample

The sample was of 1,968 farmers and the composition of this group has been analysed into types of ownership or tenancy, by age, by size of holding and by type of farm. The following tables show the detailed information:-


No. %
Owner Occupier 577 29
Owner Occupier also renting 145 7
Tenant Farmer 1,165 59
Agents, Managers or Representatives of the C.W.A.C. 56 3
No information obtained 25 1
TOTAL 1,968 100
No. %
Up to 35 years 355 18
35 to 55 years 971 49
Over 55 years 619 32
No information obtained 23 1
TOTAL 1,968 100

Size of Holding

No. %
Up to 50 acres 511 26
51 to 100 acres 542 28
101 to 150 acres 304 15
151 to 300 acres 431 22
Over 300 acres 178 9
No information obtained 2 -
TOTAL 1968 100

Type of Farm Now

No. %
Arable 238 12
Dairying 283 14
Mixed 1416 72
Others 31 2
TOTAL 1968 100

Type of Farm before the War

No. %
Arable 171 9
Dairying 715 36
Mixed 932 47
Others 65 3
Not farming before the War 85 4
TOTAL 1,968 100

A comparison between the proportions in each group show clearly the impact of the ploughing up policy of the Ministry of Agriculture.



The sample was basically a random sample taken within the main areas of arable, dairying and mixed farming; sheep farming was specifically excluded.

In order to make the sample workable, limited areas were chosen as being representative in consultation with the Ministry of Agriculture.

From these, 400 parishes in the following 38 counties were chosen:-

  • Berkshire

  • Brecon

  • Caernarvonshire

  • Carmarthen

  • Cheshire

  • Denbigh

  • Derbyshire

  • Devon

  • Dorset

  • Durham

  • Essex

  • Flintshire

  • Glamorganshire

  • Gloucester

  • Hampshire

  • Hereford

  • Hertford

  • Kent

  • Leicestershire

  • Lincolnshire

  • Monmouthshire

  • Montgomeryshire

  • Norfolk

  • Northumberland

  • Nottingham

  • Oxfordshire

  • Pembroke

  • Radnor

  • Shropshire

  • Somerset

  • Staffordshire

  • Suffolk

  • Surrey

  • Sussex

  • Warwickshire

  • Wiltshire

  • Worcestershire

  • Yorkshire

and within these parishes a random sample of holdings of over 20 acres was selected, and the farmers who were occupying these holdings were visited and interviewed.


On the whole the reception of the inquiry was very satisfactory and in most cases farmers welcomed the opportunity to discuss their problems with a third party. There were 1,968 successful interviews and 18 refusals.A small proportion of the sample in Wales was not completed for reasons of time.


The inquiry was carried through in July and early August, the interviewing lasting about five weeks.



Of the 1,968 farmers visited 1,659 were rated into two groups by members of the County Committees or the Regional Officers of the Ministry of Agriculture. For reasons of time or other difficulties this rating was not carried through over the whole sample.The method adopted was to ask the County Committee to inform us which were the best third of the farmers on our list; no information was sought about the others. In practice rather more than a third were selected by the Counties so that 718 were rated as better than the rest - 941. It is obvious that this is a very rough grading, but analyses comparing these two groups show significant differences.

The proportion which remained ungrouped is a random sample of the whole as far as we can judge; thus the whole unrated group is 16% of the sample and is 17% of the up to 35 years age group, 15% of the 35 to 55 years group and 16% of the over 55 years group. There are similarly 16% of those with holdings up to 50 acres, 16% of those with holdings of 51 to 100 acres, 14% of those with holdings of 101 to 150 acres, 14% of those with holdings of 151 to 300 acres and 16% of those with holdings over 300 acres.

The sample has been analysed by rating and these analyses are given below:-

Analysis by size of holding

The Better group of farmers The Rest
No. % No. %
Up to 50 acres 29 71
51 - 100 acres 41 59
101-150 acres 48 52
151-300 acres 51 49
Over 300 acres 65 35
SAMPLE: 718 43 941 57

Analysis by type of holding now and before the war

The Better group of farmers The Rest
Present Type No. % No. %
Arable 48 52
Dairying 31 69
Mixed 45 55
Type before the War
Arable 49 51
Dairying 38 62
Mixed 47 53
SAMPLE 718 43 941 57

Analysis by Age

The Better group of farmers The Rest
No. % No. %
Up to 35 years 49 51
35 – 55 years 45 55
Over 55 years 38 62
SAMPLE: 718 43 941 57

These differences may usefully be referred to when the sections of the report which compare the farmers with different ratings are being considered.

The Report

The report deals with four main topics:-

1. The Farmer - which is a description of the present farming community, its background and education. It is a general account to facilitate the interpretation of the rest of the material.

2. Media and the Farmer - this section is an account of the main media directed towards the farmer and the extent to which they have been effective.

3. Advisory Services and the Farmer - this section gives an account of farmers reactions to the services of the County War Agricultural Executive Committees.

4. Education and the Farmer - in this section details of the education that farmers are giving to their children is given in relation to the work they have taken up or the work which they are intending to take up. Farmer’s opinions about general education and how it could be improved are described, as are their opinions about technical education.

The report ends with a short summary of the main conclusions.


The Survey is particularly indebted to Professor R. Boutflour, Mr. B. J. Fricker and Mr. J. R. Stubbs of the Gloucester County War Agricultural Executive Committee who arranged visits to farmers and enabled us to participate in farm walks and market demonstrations and spent a great deal of time helping the Survey to design an adequate inquiry. Our thanks are also due to Dr. Charles Crowther of Harper Adams Agricultural College who made valuable suggestions, to Mr. Roy Goulding of the Essex County War Agricultural Executive Committee, who suggested a number of questions which were incorporated in the final questionnaire to Mr. A. Thompson of the Ministry of Agriculture for help on problems of Education and to Mr. J. H. Kirk, Mr. H. B. Bartlett and to Dr. C. O. George of the Ministry of Agriculture who assisted in planning and drawing the sample.

We must also thank the many officers of the County Committees who assisted the Survey throughout its work.

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