I maintain that the creation of the Internet and ability to share information electronically, was an innovation of importance on a par with the invention of the engine and industrial revolution. I also believe that it was created with good in mind and the vast majority of what is available on the www represents the collective wealth of the best human innovation and thinking.
Further, the digitalisation of archives, making history accessible from my desk opens worlds that otherwise would remain hidden and beyond my reach. My niece copied me on a tweet from MERL – the Museum of English Rural Life, showing a most delightful picture of a Lincoln Longwood ewe. Rebecca added the comment: “Jessica, have you met MERL? It makes me happier every day.”
I confess I had yet to encounter MERL so I immediately honed in on their website. And a gem it is too! Run by the University of Reading, MERL contains the most extraordinary array of British rural and agricultural archives, where you can access information about landowners’ incomes going back to 1760.
Far from being merely a quaint record for historians, the archives bring home just how important farming and agriculture has been for not just the UK, but for every economy in the world. And even more importantly, it still is. To date I have kept out of the argument raging in the British media about how bad farming is for the environment. My point is we all might need, for example, a dentist, lawyer, accountant, bank manager etc perhaps a couple times of year, but never lose sight of the fact that we all need a farmer three times a day – everyday of our lives.
To the anti-farming brigade I say: what are you going to do if, one day, you waltz into your local supermarket and find the shelves void of milk, butter, bread, grains, soya, meat, veggies, fruit? Imagine the outrage! I go on to say, support your local UK farmers and seasonal stuff. Question the environmental validity of buying avocados and almond milk. Think twice about buying blueberries flown in from Chile and packed in single use plastic before you knock the descendants of the families that appear in the MERL archives.