Reconstruction By Way of the Soil

Guy Wrench

D Wrench takes us on a wide-ranging journey through the history of some of the world’s most important civilizations, concentrating on the relationship between humanity and the soil. He shows the reader how farming practices, and the care – or lack of care – with which the soil is treated have brought about both the rise and fall of civilizations, from the ancient Romans, to the Chinese, and the Muslim world.

This history by Guy Wrench is a wide-ranging history of the agricultural policies and politics of several (actually many) different cultures through history. The author looks for parallels and similarities between the rise and decline of the cultures he discusses, and what he finds is interesting, and educational.

I like Guy Wrench’s politics, and also his optimism, both of which shine through in his writing. Having said that, though, this book was written and published in the 1940s (during WW2, actually), and there was a fair bit in the original text which seemed dated to modern eyes.  Also, his conclusion, which is hopeful and optimistic about the future as he saw it then, has not played out, unfortunately. Evenso, this text has many merits. as a historical survey.

I decided to re-edit the book extensively. I was careful not to detract from or alter Dr Wrench’s intent, and I hope that he would approve of my changes. I regard my role as being a junior collaborator with him in this text.



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  1. Introduction
  2. Rome
  3. The Roman Foods
  4. The Roman Family
  5. Soil Erosion in ancient Rome
  6. Farmers and Nomads
  7. Contrasting Pictures
  8. Banks for the Soil
  9. The Economics of the Soil
  10. The English Peasant
  11. Primitive Farmers
  12. Nyasa
  13. Tanganyika
  14. Humanity and the Earth
  15. Sind and Egypt
  16. Fragmentation
  17. The East and West Indies
  18. The German Colonies: The Mandates
  19. Russia, South Africa, Australia
  20. The United States of America
  21. A Kingdom of Agricultural Art in Europe
  22. An Historical Reconstruction
  23. Summary
  24. A Plan for Action

As you can see, it’s a pretty comprehensive undertaking on the author’s part. As far as I can find, there’s no information anywhere about Guy Wrench. He wrote a few books (this one, plus The Wheel of Health, which I’ve also republished.). Apart from these books, there is no trace of him.

Guy Wrench

“Our agriculture is wrongly based. It is a system largely directed at curing evils which it itself is responsible for. It is the wisdom of the country and the traditional farmers we need now; the wisdom of those who have built up long-lasting agriculture and whose wisdom lies in tradition. They have fashioned it through physical work and close and immediate observation; through the personal intimacy with nature which we have come to associate with the poet.

In fact, peasant life is poetic, and it is so precisely because of this intimacy. The music, dance and art of peasants are the creative expression of their lives, and as such are characteristic of their environments and the land on which they live.

Nothing collective or traditional, as peasant life is, originates from people separated from the soil, as are townfolk.

The poems and essays that played a notable part in the country life of the Chinese, the Tibetan art which finds its way into every home, the sylvan setting of Japanese villages, of the Balinese and Burmese, the vocal harmony of Swiss peasants returning from their fields, the reproduction of floral beauty and colour in festive dress of so many countries; these are the product of the poet that lies in every peasant’s heart.

It is this intimacy that inspires creativity in the poet, as the Greeks recognized in their choice of word for poet, namely, a ‘maker’ or creator, and which Dante voiced in the Divine Comedy, when he wrote that the poet was not the disciple of the imagination, but rather one who knows the secrets of nature.”

Guy Wrench


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