F H King
Biography courtesy of Small Farms Library
“Sir Albert Howard said F.H. King was “one of the most brilliant of the agricultural investigators of the last generation”, and that King’s book Farmers of Forty Centuries “should be prescribed as a textbook in every agricultural school and college in the world”. King’s remarkable account of his agricultural investigations in China, Korea and Japan in 1909 was an often-quoted source of inspiration for Howard in his 26 years as an agricultural investigator in India. King was Professor of Agricultural Physics at the University of Wisconsin until 1901, and then Chief of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Division of Soil Management until he retired in 1904. He was a pioneer in the development of soil physics, which found the purely chemical approach wanting: simply providing chemical nutrients did not solve the problems of crop production. “The soil is a scene of life,” King wrote, “where altered sunshine maintains an endless cycle of changes, rather than a mere chemical and mechanical mixture.“”
Again courtesy of the Small Farms Library.
The preface and introduction are particularly thought provoking. The Chinese maintained large numbers of people per acre up to 3-5 and a relatively stable society for ‘Fourty Centuries’. Many of the population were doing intensive manual work yet appeared accepting of life, and King remarks he only observed an aggressive argument once during his visit of several months. All organic material was returned to the land including human waste
Farmers of Forty Centuries – or Permanent Agriculture in China, Korea and Japan by F. H. King, 1911, Jonathan Cape, London, 1926, 1933, 452 pages, 248 photographs, pdf (71 Mb)
A PDF of the book can be found here
“King died in 1911, before he could finish Farmers of Forty Centuries, which is missing its last chapter, “Message of China and Japan to the World”. However, three years later his widow, Mrs. C.B. King, published more of King’s work in the book Soil Management, with the final chapter “Agriculture of Three Ancient Nations”, which Mrs King had assembled from 10 of King’s lectures and papers, along with much further information on the practices of the Orient in the rest of the book. Farmers of Forty Centuries, Soil Management, and The Soil, King’s practical guide to soil physics, can be downloaded below as pdf files derived from page images online at Cornell’s Core Historical Literature of Agriculture library: http://chla.library.cornell.edu/”
Glimpses of the content are included below
Payment in gold for rights to export human waste from Shanghai (Page 9)
Recycling all organic waste; a reminder as to how close life was to the nutritional edge, which necessitated the utmost attention to food production, to try to ensure healthy families, so populations, and social stability, were maintained (page 13)
The recycling of human waste was regarded as central to agricultural fertility to survival and health of the Chinese nation.
(The page number and content varies slightly between editions)