How did rural work change over the 20th century?


This resource explores the story of milk production as a particular case study. Your students will discover how war and government pressure to feed the country saw the cheese-making processes industrialised from the 1900s culminate with the introduction of ‘Government Cheddar’. Students experience how physically tiring it was to hand-make dairy products at a time when workers used ‘elbow grease’ instead of machines. There are also opportunities to look more generally at rural work and tasks since the 1950s. Students will also experience the joys of celebrating annual traditional celebrations. Students can use the information they have gathered to write an imaginary diary or make an audio presentation.

Themes and topics: 

  • Challenges for Britain, Europe and the wider world 1901 to the present day
  • Social, cultural and technological change in postwar British society
  • Local history study and a period after 1066
  • Writing diary entries
  • Industrial processes, making and understand where food comes from and seasonality.

Suggested age range:

Upper primary, lower and upper secondary

Links with other activities:

This activity could also be used in conjunction with the ‘How are different machines and objects, past and present, used in country life?, ‘What industries have put Reading on the map?’ and ‘What was farming like before modern technology?’ resources.

Learning outcomes:

By the end of this set of activities students will:

  • have a better knowledge and understanding of what life is like, and was like, for people working in the countryside
  • develop writing skills by writing a diary entry of a typical worker’s day
  • gain awareness of the impact of the seasons on farm work
  • gain an understanding of Britain’s plan and need for increased food production in post-war periods
  • develop an insight into the processes and tools once needed to make dairy-based food products and how this changed over time
  • develop investigation, evaluation and analysis skills.