the irresistible fleet of bicycles

free book: fields, factories and workshops

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How much and how little things change. We’re delighted to be able to read and recommend the free 1912 book Fields, Factories and Workshops: or Industry Combined with Agriculture and Brain Work with Manual Work by the prescient Pëtr Kropotkin. Who was he, and what messages did he have for today’s Greenhorns?

Black adn white photo of balding man with long black beard and small wire-rimmed glasses.

Photo of Kropotkin taken by Gaspard-Félix Tournachon, AKA Nadar, as shown at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nadar_(photographer.

Born in Moscow in 1842, Kropotkin was a true Renaissance Man, a “Russian geographer, economist, activist, philologist, zoologist, evolutionary theorist, philosopher, writer and prominent anarchist,” according to Wikipedia.

When he wrote Fields, Factories and Workshops, Kropotkin was seeing some of the same things we are today. He saw “decentralisation of industries going on” and new-comers developing “on their own… the principal industries,” which implied freedom from exploitation. Agriculture was part of this big decentralization. Kropotkin, for instance, didn’t buy the accepted wisdom that sufficient food couldn’t be grown locally and urged people to do it:

“As the manufacturing nations of West Europe are meeting with steadily growing difficulties in selling their manufactured goods abroad, and getting food in exchange, they will be compelled to grow their food at home; they will be bound to rely on home customers for their manufactures, and on home producers for their food. And the sooner they do so the better.”

Kropotkin also wrote about soil health, crop yield, the abandonment of fertile land and the threat this posed, and sought to show “what can and ought to be obtained from the land under a proper intelligent treatment.” Sounds familiar!

An easier-on-the-eyes PDF version of the book is available here. Enjoy!

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