Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
The Working Man's Green Space

The Working Man's Green Space: Allotment Gardens in England, France, and Germany, 1870-1919

Copyright Date: 2014
Pages: 248
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    The Working Man's Green Space
    Book Description:

    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 Spacefocuses 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.

    eISBN: 978-0-8139-3537-9
    Subjects: Architecture and Architectural History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-xii)
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
  5. Introduction
    (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 are allotment in England,¹jardin ouvrieror laterjardin familialin France, andKleingartenorSchrebergartenin Germany. With or without sheds, small gardens are visible along rail lines, most prominently in Germany.² Whether seen along the rail loop between Brussels’s stations, during travels in Germany, or along Philadelphia suburban...

  6. 1 Definitions and Commonalities
    (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 forms all over the world.¹ The German allotment historian Gert Gröning defines these gardens as a “specific expression of the human interest in the growth of plants for food and for aesthetic reasons.”² An examination of how allotments were defined in the three countries considered here provides a...

  7. 2 Allotments in England
    (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 enclosures.

    In the decade following the French Revolution, the demand for universal adult male suffrage as the main avenue to political agency challenged the aristocratic control of landownership that, within the British system, secured political power. A number of radical social thinkers connected landownership with advocacy for political representation. Among these...

  8. 3 Kleingärten in Germany
    (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 been used for productive cultivation, including hops and fruit trees, and for leisure. By the beginning of the nineteenth century, demand for public assistance had increased due to changes in the social circumstances of the lower classes, caused by the Industrial Revolution; the French Revolution, which had secularized religious property, causing the elimination of...

  9. 4 Jardins ouvriers in France
    (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 the seventeenth century, St. Vincent de Paul created family gardens called “gardens of St. Fiacre” (jardins de Saint-Fiacre), honoring the patron saint of gardeners. As of 1850, a conference of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul began giving gardens to the needy in...

  10. 5 Is There an Aesthetics of Allotments?
    (pp. 126-147)

    As cited in the first chapter, the definition ofKleingärten(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 increasingly urban and were in need of being “fed, housed and employed.”² For the nonagricultural, salaried populations of the turn of the twentieth century, allotments addressed these basic needs: they were a source of food; they were an extension of the domestic space; and they occupied free time after work or, for the unemployed, acted as a substitute for...

  11. 6 Allotments and the Design Professions
    (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 were accustomed to working with or trained to design. As they evolved from rural relief measures in an agricultural setting to an increasingly urban phenomenon, allotments remained under the radar of the design professions. Further, the proletarian economics of allotments did not include designers’ fees. The involvement of the design professions with allotments was thus unusual, but...

  12. Conclusion
    (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 1927. At that time, only four countries had specific legislation that defined allotments and offered protection against landowners: Austria, Germany, Great Britain, and Switzerland. The resolutions published by the congress included recommendations for permanent garden sites, for their insertion into urban plans as green spaces, for the provision of alternate spaces when expropriation was...

    (pp. 177-184)
    (pp. 185-188)
  15. NOTES
    (pp. 189-210)
    (pp. 211-224)
  17. INDEX
    (pp. 225-232)