Agrarian businessman organise : a comparative study of the origins and early phases of development of the National Farmers' Union of England and Wales and the New Zealand Farmers' Union ca 1880-1929
This dissertation is a comparative study of the origins and early phases of development of the National Farmers' Union of England and the New Zealand Farmers' Union between approximately 1880 and 1929. It attempts to assess the development of these two farmers' political organisations by comparing and contrasting them one against the other. Previous assessments of both farmers' unions have been somewhat modified by placing them in this broader perspective. The dissertation first outlines the socio-economic and political situation from which the two unions emerged and generally highlights the considerable economic and political advantages which New Zealand farmers held over their English counterparts. It also attempts to isolate various factors which help to explain the very different level of organisational success achieved by the two unions. The second section concentrates on the English side of the study by examining general farmers' organisations which preceded the NFU and then moving on to trace the origins of the NFU in Lincolnshire and its subsequent development at the national and county levels. The first part of this section makes clear the fact that the NFU was a new type of agricultural organisation which challenged the traditions laid down by its predecessors. The second part in examining the development of the NFU at the national, county and local levels, highlights its considerable organisational achievement. The third section begins by examining the general farmers' organisations which preceded the NZFU and reveals that there were more direct links between these institutions and the NZFU than there were between the NFU and its predecessors. It then proceeds to relate the story of the NZFU at the national, provincial and local levels and highlights the discrepancies in the performance of the two unions, especially at the intermediate level. Section four tries to draw the threads together by making some direct comparisons which highlight the fact that the NFU was a far more representative, cohesive and effective organisation. Some reasons are also postulated as to why the NFU was generally more successful and these suggestions are developed further in the conclusion. The dissertation is shaped by two major arguments. 1. That both farmers' unions were essentially similar organisational responses from the two farming communities to the profound socio-economic and related political changes which swept across the English speaking world in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. Both unions were part of the more sophisticated, post-populist agrarian response to change. 2. That Hofstadter is correct in asserting that farmers became more adept at evolving effective political organisations once their numerical significance and economic importance declined. English farmers evolved a more effective pressure group than their New Zealand counterparts because they had to. The demands made by the more mature and complex socio-economic and political situation of England forced English farmers to develop a sophisticated pressure group in the interests of economic survival. Finally, the majority of them also tended to think and act as agrarian businessmen rather than yeomen farmers and entrepreneurial primitives. They were better able to face up to the reality of twentieth century society by countering the influence of urban sectional groups through the mechanism of a sophisticated pressure group organised at the national level.
Advisor: Ross, Angus; Olssen, Erik
Degree Name: Doctor of Philosophy
Degree Discipline: History
Publisher: University of Otago
Keywords: National Farmers' Union; New Zealand Farmers' Union; Farmers Political activity; New Zealand Politics and government
Research Type: Thesis