Use our images
Download images for
personal or educational
use for £2.99/US$5 each
All of these articles and images are available for licensing: click on an image to see further details and licensing options; contact us about licensing textual content.
Posted in America, Farming, Historical articles, History, Plants on Friday, 10 May 2013
This edited article about maize originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 249 published on 22 October 1966.
Mexican Ranchers and Cowboys with their maize crop
Maize was not known in the Old World until Columbus discovered the New, so we have little except Indian myths about its origin. One of these runs somewhat along the lines of our own Adam and Eve story.
A Fox, a Jackal and a Parrot lived in The-Land-Of-Divided-And-Stagnant-Waters, to which they guided the great god Tepeuh Gucumatz, showing him ears of white and yellow maize. From these the god created man and woman, giving them a drink made from pounded-up maize. From this drink, so the Indians say, all men and women are given their strength.
Botanists believe that maize existed over 2,000 years ago on the Central Plateau of Mexico. From there it spread southward to Peru, Chile and the Argentine and northward to the St. Lawrence. Today it is grown almost everywhere that man lives: below sea-level in the Caspian Plain, and as high as 12,000 feet in the Andes.
Read the rest of this article »
Posted in Customs, Farming, Historical articles, History, Nature, Religion on Thursday, 9 May 2013
This edited article about the Church of England originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 247 published on 8 October 1966.
There will be very few churches or chapels throughout the country which have not kept a ‘Harvest Thanksgiving’ or ‘Harvest Festival’ during the past few weeks. This occasion is one of the most popular features of the Christian year, and attracts people who rarely come at any other time.
In its present form, the Harvest Thanksgiving dates back little more than a century, and is a very English custom. There were, of course, religious ceremonies connected with the gathering of crops in Old Testament times, and even in other religions of the ancient world. Partly to avoid some of the riotous drunkenness which often accompanied pagan feasts, the early Christians refused to take part in such celebrations.
In the Middle Ages, the custom gradually arose of offering a loaf of bread baked from the first ears of the year’s wheat crop at a Service on August 1st. The day was called ‘Lammas’ Day – a word probably meaning ‘loaf-mass’. After the Reformation, even this day was no longer observed in the Church of England, although it is now being revived here and there.
Instead, harvest celebrations became entirely a non-church matter. Every farmer held a ‘harvest home’ on his own farm. To celebrate a successful harvest (or perhaps to drown the memory of a poor one) a hearty feast was held in the farm kitchen. Much ale was drunk, and there was a good deal of horseplay, which occasionally led to quarrels. So the ‘harvest-home’ gained as bad a reputation as some of the pagan harvest festivals.
In the 1840′s, a number of country clergymen began to feel that it would be better to make ‘harvest home’ into a religious occasion, to keep it from getting out of hand.
The idea proved amazingly popular, even among people who kept few or none of the other festivals of the church’s year. Before the end of the 19th century, the decoration of churches and chapels with harvest produce was a well-established custom, and in addition to the Sunday services there was often another in mid-week, followed by a harvest supper on church premises. By contrast, the rollicking ‘harvest home’ of the farm kitchen almost died out.
Most of the popular hymns which are still sung on this day were written in the mid-19th century. Even in cities, the festival became well established, not least, perhaps, because it brought a welcome touch of the country into drab industrial areas.
And it is no doubt good that, in town or country, we should all remember with gratitude that, as one harvest hymn puts it,
‘All good gifts around us
Are sent from heaven above’
Posted in Animals, Farming, Historical articles, History, Medicine on Wednesday, 17 April 2013
This edited article about Edward Jenner originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 227 published on 21 May 1966.
Edward Jenner inoculating a child
For nearly two thousand years, smallpox was one of the major scourges of mankind. Today there are fewer than a dozen cases a year in Britain, and these seldom prove fatal.
It was a chance remark by a milkmaid that put Edward Jenner, born on May 17, 1749, on the track of his great discovery that people could be vaccinated against smallpox. While he was serving his medical apprenticeship, Jenner was consulted by a milkmaid about some spots on her skin: “It is not smallpox, that I do know, because I have had cowpox,” the girl told him. This made Jenner remember the tradition in his native county of Gloucestershire that people who had contracted cowpox from milking cows suffering from the disease were afterwards immune against smallpox.
In 1775, Jenner began a careful study of the relationship between animal cowpox and human smallpox. After experimenting on animals, he discovered that, if he took vaccine or extract from a cowpox sore and injected it into a human being, that person would be protected or vaccinated against smallpox.
In 1796, he inoculated his first human patient, a young boy, with matter taken from the hand of a milkmaid suffering from cowpox. Some days later, he inoculated the boy with smallpox germs. As the doctor anticipated, the boy did not develop smallpox. Inoculation with cowpox virus had produced a definite degree of protection against smallpox.
The principle behind Jenner’s vaccination is still the same today, although the method is more simple and effective. When Jenner died in 1823, smallpox was almost wiped out in civilized countries.
Posted in America, Farming, Historical articles, History, Plants on Thursday, 4 April 2013
This edited article about Luther Burbank originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 217 published on 12 March 1966.
Luther Burbank, the man who changed the shape of the potato and removed the prickles from a cactus, has sometimes been called an “architect of nature.”
Burbank, born at Lancaster, Massachusetts, on March 7, 1849, spent his life creating new plants and improving existing ones. By crossing different plants or different species of the same plant, he produced flowers, fruits and vegetables which were vast improvements on those which nature had been growing for thousands of years. In this way he was able to turn weeds into beautiful flowers and poisonous plants into sweet fruits.
Burbank began his working life in a factory making agricultural machinery, but his real interest was horticulture. In 1875 he invented a new type of plough and with the money he received for it he moved to Santa Rosa, California, where he set up in business as a plant breeder.
One of his earliest successes was to improve the shape of the potato. At one time the potato was a very uneven and knobbly vegetable. By careful selection of seeds from the best potatoes, Burbank produced the much smoother potato we know today.
He next “invented” a plum without stones and a white blackberry. By crossing the seeds of the plum and the apricot, he produced an entirely new fruit called the plumcot. Another of the new fruits was the wonderberry, obtained by crossing the raspberry and the dewberry.
Probably the greatest of Burbank’s achievements in improving on nature was to take the prickles off the cactus. The cactus grows in arid regions and contains certain food and water needed by cattle, but in its wild state its thorns prevent it from being eaten. After years of experiments, Burbank was able to grow a cactus without thorns.
Posted in British Countryside, Farming, Historical articles, History on Monday, 25 March 2013
This edited article about Victorian country life originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 209 published on 15 January 1966.
Sunday Morning, a typically sentimental painting of the Victorian countryside, probably in Surrey, by Myles Birket Foster
London and the great provincial cities went on from strength to strength during the Victorian Era, but it was otherwise with the countryside. When Queen Victoria died it was a sorry spectacle, particularly in the South of England, for apart from certain favoured neighbourhoods, the countryside was hastening to decay.
No one stayed there who could possibly find work elsewhere, and all the young people with energy and initiative turned their backs on the life of the villages and fields for that of the towns.
It had not been like this in the early part of the Queen’s reign. Somewhere about the time of the Great Exhibition the urban population of England began to exceed the rural, but agriculture remained the great central productive industry of the country, employing more than two million skilled men. They might be underpaid but there were compensating advantages, and their lot was infinitely happier than that of the operative in the new towns. The agricultural labourer had his garden, a wife who could bake his bread, and many small perquisites such as harvest money, beer or cider in the field, occasional firewood, and gleanings. So long as he was healthy – and his life kept him so, he was happy.
H. Harman in his Sketches Of The Bucks Countryside has described such a one in Old Jas Dagley of Gawcott, Bucks, who, with his low forehead, eagle eyes, powerful nose and jaw, and stern trap mouth, looked like Gladstone, the great Liberal statesman: he paid £2 a year rent for his cottage, and was never short of good wholesome food in all his long life of thrift and labour – “plenty a vegetables the whool yeeur round and a flitch a beacon . . . alwiz hangin’ up in the kitchen and plenty a rabbuts round the meddurs.” He worked on his allotment every night when his day’s work was done, while his two main boasts were that he had never missed a feast in any of the neighbouring villages, and that he had once carried a nine-gallon cask of ale in a sack on his shoulders for three miles.
What may be termed the golden age of British agriculture continued until the seventies. In spite of the steady rise in population not more than a quarter of the country’s wheat, and very little of its oats and barley, came in from abroad. The urban worker had more in his pocket, and he spent it on the produce of the English farmer. During the Crimean War of 1854-6 wheat rose to a price which it did not reach again until 1917, and although it did not long remain as high as this, for many years it kept at a figure which was two shillings a quarter more than in the middle of the century.
Read the rest of this article »
Posted in Farming, Historical articles, History, Law, London, Politics on Wednesday, 13 March 2013
This edited article about British prime ministers originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 190 published on 4 September 1965.
Sir Robert Peel’s London ‘peelers’ , the first policemen, come to the aid of a mugging victim by C L Doughty
Sir Robert Peel was a bluff, powerfully built man with an appetite for work but not much taste for the social refinements.
When Wellington was still Prime Minister, leading the Tories from the House of Lords, Peel was the Tory leader in the Commons.
The two men did not get on well together. Wellington complained that Peel had “no manners.”
Certainly Peel, born of a cotton-manufacturing family from Lancashire, could be irritable and difficult to deal with.
When Wellington’s government fell, Peel took over the leadership of the party. He changed its name to the Conservative Party, and, when the Conservatives came to power again, in 1841, he became Prime Minister.
Immediately he undertook sweeping reforms. He reorganized the banking system and enormously strengthened the country’s finances.
In pursuit of his campaign for free trade, he slashed duties on imported goods. He reintroduced income tax at 7d. in the pound, but many other indirect taxes were cut back.
The experience he had gained in the tough world of industry in the north – experience his rivals had scoffed at – had taught him that running a country successfully was like running a good business.
Britain prospered as a result of Peel’s policies, but then, in 1845, came disaster. The English harvest was ruined and at the same time the potato crop in Ireland – the staple food of the Irish peasant – was very nearly wiped out by blight, causing a terrible famine.
As Peel saw it, there was only one thing to do – import foreign wheat into the country in order to prevent wholesale starvation.
But for years the Corn Laws – designed to protect the land-owning aristocracy from the competition of foreign grain, and forbidding in part the import of wheat – had been enforced.
Peel swept these laws away. This was a humane thing to do, it infuriated the land-owning classes in his own party and four days later he was forced out of office.
Read the rest of this article »
Posted in Farming, Insects, Nature, Plants, Wildlife on Friday, 1 March 2013
This edited article about locusts originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 169 published on 10 April 1965.
He is just a species of grasshopper, only about three inches long, yet he and his kind can do millions of pounds’ worth of damage in an incredibly short space of time – can strip a field of all its vegetation in minutes, can darken the sky for miles around, and can, by eating all the grass, cause thousands of cattle to starve to death.
He is, of course, the locust, one of humanity’s most formidable enemies of the insect world, and one against whom man wages a constant war.
Each of the world’s large continents has at least one species of locust capable of building up an enormous population ready for a migratory swarm. The species that you see on the opposite page is called Locusta migratoria and it exists either in a short-winged form that does not swarm or a long-winged form that does swarm.
The swarm of these long-winged locusts soon becomes a massed flight. Some of these flights are so tremendous that the sheer numbers of locusts can shut out the daylight and can extend for miles. One swarm over the Middle East was estimated to be 2,000 square miles in extent.
Why do they do it? All the reasons that lie behind these mass migratory movements are not by any means known. Certainly the locusts are not driven by hunger, since they do little feeding in flight, living instead on stored food in their bodies.
It is when the migratory flight is over that the damage is done, when whole fields and farms are stripped bare of all growth by the voracious insects. But some of this damage is countered by the farm-workers who, in less developed countries attacked by locusts, find that they make an appetizing meal when dried!
Like all insects, the locusts’ defence against the hazards of predators is in reproducing itself in huge numbers. Once during a single infestation in Cyprus 1,300 tons of locust eggs were collected and destroyed. The pests are most vulnerable when young and all efforts are made to kill the wingless “hoppers” in the breeding grounds if they can be located in time.
Other well-known members of the locust family are the grouse and pygmy locusts, which are not more than half an inch long. In the southern and western United States lives the large and clumsy lubber locust which, because of its bulk, swarms for only short distances. This species can make a peculiar hissing noise and it also has a distinctly unpleasant smell.
In Biblical times the locust figured as one of the ten plagues of Egypt. Vast masses of the insects took enormous toll of growing crops and nothing that the Middle Eastern people of those times did had the slightest effect on them. The banging of empty tins and the frenzied beating of drums comprised man’s pitiful attempts to frighten away the destructive hordes.
Later huge trenches were dug to trap the wingless “hoppers” when young as they advanced across the land. Poison bait and flame-throwers were then used against them. Today the war is kept up by low-flying aeroplanes that drop contact-poisons as a death-dealing spray over thousands of acres.
Posted in Famous news stories, Farming, Historical articles, History, Nature, Plants, Ships on Wednesday, 20 February 2013
This edited article about HMS Bounty originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 145 published on 24 October 1964.
Captain Bligh is cast adrift by the Bounty’s mutineers and his precious breadfruit thrown overboard by Ken Petts
Mutiny on the Bounty . . . most of us have seen the film, most of us know the story of the savage and hasty-tempered Captain Bligh, who ruled his officers and men with such brutal discipline that finally many of them revolted and put him over the side of the ship in a small boat with eighteen men who remained loyal to him.
We know how, with superlative seamanship, Bligh navigated his tiny boat over 3,600 odd miles of the Southern seas, until, finally, he and his small party came to the safety of the island of Timor, part of the collection of islands that was then called the East Indies, and is now Indonesia.
We know that Captain Bligh eventually returned to England, that some of the mutineers were captured and hanged, that others were drowned at sea, that one small party sailed on to found a community on Pitcairn Island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, and that their descendants are there to this day.
The story of the mutiny on the Bounty must be one of the best-known in British naval history. Not so well known is that the whole tragic affair began in the peaceful setting of the Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew, near London.
Two plant experts from Kew were on the ship. The object of the voyage was to collect breadfruit trees from Tahiti in the Southern Pacific and carry them across the seas to be replanted in the West Indies.
In the West Indies in those days of the late eighteenth century were vast plantations of sugar, coffee, tobacco and spices, all run by slave labour. In 1787 the plantation owners were looking for a cheap way of feeding their slaves, and breadfruit, they thought, would do the job.
It was known that breadfruit grew in Tahiti. Captain Cook had seen it there on his various voyages of exploration, and William Dampier, a buccaneering sailor-of-fortune, had seen and described it a hundred years before, in 1688.
“The breadfruit, as we call it, grows on a large tree, as big and high as our largest apple trees,” he wrote. “The fruit grows on the boughs like apples. It is as big as a penny loaf when wheat is at five shillings the bushel.
“It is of a round shape, and hath a thick tough rind. When the fruit is ripe it is yellow and soft, and the taste is sweet and pleasant. The natives use it for bread.
“They gather it, when full grown, while it is green and hard; then they bake it in an oven which scorcheth the rind and makes it black, but they scrape off the outside black crust and there remains a tender thin crust; and the inside is soft, tender and white, like the crumb of a penny loaf. This fruit lasts in some eight months of the year.”
No wonder the rich plantation owners saw breadfruit trees as a cheap and easy way of feeding their slaves – if only they could get the trees to grow in the West Indies plantations.
Read the rest of this article »
Posted in Animals, Birds, Farming, Historical articles, History, Sport on Monday, 18 February 2013
This edited article about domestic fowl originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 138 published on 5 September1964.
There are about a hundred different varieties of domestic fowl, bred either for egg-laying or for the table. All of them are close relatives of the pheasant and all are descended from the Red Jungle Fowl of Malaya.
If the male of that species had not been a bundle of feathered fury, always spoiling for a fight, his descendants would not be today providing us with eggs for breakfast and chicken for dinner. For the fowl was first domesticated for cock-fighting and not as a source of food.
The Red Jungle Fowl is a comparatively small bird compared with our domestic poultry. The cock or male stands about twenty inches high and weighs about two pounds, against the sixteen pounds of some of our farmyard breeds.
In common with all his domestic descendants, he is distinguished from his pheasant relatives by having a comb and wattle about the head. The tail feathers are also more arched and curved.
According to ancient stone carvings and written records, the Red Jungle Fowl was first domesticated in 3200 B.C. in India. For centuries their sole use was for cock-fighting, and it was not until many centuries later that there is any reference to their being bred for food.
Read the rest of this article »
Posted in Animals, Farming, Historical articles, History on Friday, 15 February 2013
This edited article about cattle originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 135 published on 15 August 1964.
We cannot imagine a world without cows to provide us with milk, butter and cheese. Yet man had been using cattle for meat and for hauling his loads for centuries before he thought of specially breeding them for dairy products.
There is no record as to when cattle were first domesticated. But we do know that in prehistoric times primitive man came up against various types of oxen and bison roaming the wilds of Europe, Africa and Asia.
In a cave at Altamira in Spain there is a picture of one of these distant ancestors of the dairy cow. The drawing is at least twenty thousand years old, and from it we know that in those far-off times cattle were just wild animals which man feared but hunted and killed for food when he had the chance.
Thousands of years were to pass before our primitive ancestors hit on the idea of taming wild cattle and breeding from them cows to supply milk.
With the advance of civilization, cattle became ever more important as the chief source of milk for human beings. By careful selection, feeding and breeding farmers were able to increase to a fantastic extent the amount of milk a cow could yield.
Today there are over thirty standard breeds of dairy cow and of almost every variety of colour from white to jet black. Cattle bred to become beef have heavy, well-rounded bodies, but the milk or milch cow is clean and angular. She is bred not to develop flesh but to produce the largest possible amount of milk throughout the year.
Read the rest of this article »