Replenishing the soil was of concern to Adam Smith, to Johan von Thunen as the founder of marginal economics, and to Karl Marx, whose volume I of Das Kapital appeared 150 years ago, early in September 1867. Drawing on Marx’s historical materialism, the Australian-born founder of the discipline of Prehistory, V. Gordon Childe, by 1934, had identified the agricultural or Neolithic Revolution starting some 10,000 years before the present as among the most significant moments in how our species has remade itself; Childe later added the urban revolution. The shifts between pasture and farming, the engrossment of lands after 1750, a population explosion and then urbanisation, directed attention to the impoverishment of the soil – a matter given scientific urgency by Justus von Liebig in the 1840s.
In homage to the sweep and depth of historical materialism founded by Marx and enriched by Childe, this lecture will weave the contest of ideas into a survey of struggles to control the wealth of nature.
Humphrey McQueen is a Canberra-based historian and activist at work on yet one more Marxist account of the origins of capitalism, to be titled The Revolution inside Capital.
When: Saturday 9 September 2017, 4:00pm
Where: Blackheath Public School, Leichhardt St, Blackheath NSW 2785
Images courtesy Blackheath History Forum.