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The Working Man's Green Space

Allotment Gardens in England, France, and Germany, 1870-1919

Micheline Nilsen

Publication Year: 2014

With antecedents dating back to the Middle Ages, the community garden is more popular than ever as a means of procuring the freshest food possible and instilling community cohesion. But as Micheline Nilsen shows, the small-garden movement, which gained impetus in the nineteenth century as rural workers crowded into industrial cities, was for a long time primarily a repository of ideas concerning social reform, hygienic improvement, and class mobility. Complementing efforts by worker cooperatives, unions, and social legislation, the provision of small garden plots offered some relief from bleak urban living conditions. Urban planners often thought of such gardens as a way to insert "lungs" into a city.

Standing at the intersection of a number of disciplines--including landscape studies, horticulture, and urban history-- The Working Man’s Green Space focuses on the development of allotment gardens in European countries in the nearly half-century between the Franco-Prussian War and World War I, when the French Third Republic, the German Empire, and the late Victorian era in England saw the development of unprecedented measures to improve the lot of the "laboring classes." Nilsen shows how community gardening is inscribed within a social contract that differs from country to country, but how there is also an underlying aesthetic and social significance to these gardens that transcends national borders.

Published by: University of Virginia Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. i-vi


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pp. vii-viii


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pp. ix-xii

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pp. xiii-xvi

Th e research for this book was supported by a Seed Grant in summer 2010 and a Faculty Research Grant in summer 2011, both from Indiana University, South Bend, as well as an Overseas Research Grant from Indiana University in November 2010 and a postdoctoral stipend from the Garden and Landscape...

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pp. 1-6

Allotments are a very specific type of garden: usually of small size, not attached to a dwelling, they are cultivated by their tenant and family for individual consumption of the produce they yield. Flowers, herbs, berry bushes, or fruit- bearing trees may also add to their harvest. Their most common names...

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1: Definitions and Commonalities

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pp. 7-20

As indicated in the introduction, an allotment garden is a small plot of land, not attached to a dwelling, that is cultivated to produce food intended for the consumption of the gardener and his or her family. Under a variety of names, the practice of allotment or community gardening assumes slightly different...

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2: Allotments in England

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pp. 21-57

According to the English allotment historian Jeremy Burchardt, the provision of allotments prior to 1873 in England was a response to events that were disrupting the order of landed society.1 Two major factors had an impact on the origins of the allotment movement: radical agrarianism and the practice of...

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3: Kleingärten in Germany

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pp. 58-97

Within fortified medieval cities only small areas could be devoted to gardens. Larger cultivated areas were relegated to land outside the city walls. German local historians and literary sources provide evidence of such gardens in cities including Wismar, Leipzig, and Weimar.1 These gardens appear to have...

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4: Jardins ouvriers in France

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pp. 98-125

As of the Middle Ages, plots of land on the outskirts of French cities were made available to the needy or to tradesmen by guilds and convents.1 They were given different names: the “poor man’s furrows” (sillons du pauvre) in the Ardennes or Vendée or the “poor man’s field” (champ du pauvre) in Lower Brittany. During...

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5: Is There an Aesthetics of Allotments?

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pp. 126-147

As cited in the first chapter, the definition of Kleingärten (allotments) provided by the German landscape historian Gert Gröning includes “aesthetic reasons” for the cultivation of allotments.1 During the period under consideration here, allotments were cultivated by populations that were becoming...

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6: Allotments and the Design Professions

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pp. 148-156

The preceding chapter investigates manifestations of an aesthetic dimension in allotments. As a vernacular mode of intervention on the landscape, allotments were akin to the workings of long- standing but evolving agricultural traditions. They were not among the kinds of gardens that landscape designers...

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pp. 157-176

These concluding remarks provide a brief outline for the development of allotments from 1919 to the present. Founded on 3 October 1926 as the Office international des fédérations des jardins ouvriers, the International Association of Workers’ Gardens met for a first congress held in Luxemburg in...


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pp. 177-184

Organizations and Terms

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pp. 185-188


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pp. 189-210


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pp. 211-224


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pp. 225-232

E-ISBN-13: 9780813935379
E-ISBN-10: 0813935377
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813935089
Print-ISBN-10: 0813935083

Page Count: 248
Illustrations: 41 b&w illus., 4 tables
Publication Year: 2014

OCLC Number: 869345632
MUSE Marc Record: Download for The Working Man's Green Space

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Landscape design -- France -- History -- 20th century.
  • Landscape design -- France -- History -- 19th century.
  • Landscape design -- England -- History -- 20th century.
  • Landscape design -- England -- History -- 19th century.
  • Allotment gardens -- Germany -- History -- 20th century.
  • Allotment gardens -- Germany -- History -- 19th century.
  • Allotment gardens -- France -- History -- 20th century.
  • Allotment gardens -- France -- History -- 19th century.
  • Allotment gardens -- England -- History -- 20th century.
  • Allotment gardens -- England -- History -- 19th century.
  • Landscape design -- Germany -- History -- 19th century.
  • Landscape design -- Germany -- History -- 20th century.
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