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History Great Britain

Apostles of Inequality

Rural Poverty, Political Economy, and the Economist, 1760-1860

by (author) Jim Handy

University of Toronto Press
Initial publish date
Mar 2022
Great Britain, Economic History, Social Classes
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Mar 2022
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  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Jun 2022
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Between 1760 and 1860, the English countryside was subject to constant attempts at agricultural improvement. Most often these meant depriving cottagers and rural workers of access to land they could cultivate, despite evidence that they were the most productive farmers in a country constantly short of food.


Drawing from a wide range of contemporary sources, Apostles of Inequality argues that such attempts, driven by a flawed faith in the wonders of capital, did little to increase agricultural productivity and instead led to a century of increasing impoverishment in rural England. Jim Handy rejects the assertions about the benefits that accompanied the transition to "improved" agriculture and details the abundant evidence for the efficiency of smallholder, peasant agriculture. He traces the development of both economic theory and government policy through the work of agricultural improver Arthur Young (1741–1820), government advisor Nassau William Senior (1790–1864), and the editors and writers of the Economist, as well as Adam Smith and Thomas Robert Malthus.


Apostles of Inequality demonstrates how a fascination with capital – promoted by political economy and farmers’ desires to have a labour force completely dependent on wage labour – fostered widespread destitution in rural England for over a century.

About the author


Jim Handy is a professor of history at the University of Saskatchewan. He has written extensively on Guatemalan history and more generally on peasant economies, agrarian reform and political economy. He has been president of the Canadian Association for Latin American and Caribbean Studies, which awarded him a Distinguished Fellow recognition in 2015, particularly for his contribution to graduate student training. He has received numerous teaching awards and the J.W. George Ivany Internationalization Award by the University of Saskatchewan.


Jim Handy's profile page

Other titles by Jim Handy