Tools & Tillage Covers

Tools & Tillage Now Available

Ground-Breaking Journal on the history of the implements of cultivation and other agricultural processes, Tools & Tillage, made Open Access

Ploughing with an ard © National Museum of CopenhagenFrom 1968 to 1995, the international journal Tools & Tillage was published out of Copenhagen, but with an international intent. The journal was co-founded by Axel Steensberg, Grith Lerche and Alexander Fenton. All three were active in establishing Cultural History – called Volkskunde in German – as an academic field in Denmark and Scotland.

Until then, the teaching of the field had been undertaken as part of informal apprenticeships housed at the major museums in Denmark and Scotland; as had been the case in Germany since the mid-19th century and in Sweden after 1918.

Part of this academic endeavour was the development of departments at the Universities. Thus, The School of Scottish Studies was founded in 1948 at the University of Edinburgh, while Axel Steensberg was called as a professor in 1967 to the University of Copenhagen. Here, he struck up a fruitful and lifelong cooperation with one of his students, Grith Lerche. Together, they explored the practicality of traditional preindustrial rural life, foremost how to tillage the land.

Out of this collaboration grew the international journal Tools & Tillage. At first, the journal reported on ploughing experiments and archaeological explorations of implements. Later, systems of land use and types of cultivation were included.

Tools & Tillage is a great resource for anyone who wishes to explore historic farming techniques and traditional agricultural practices, combined with an (experimental) archaeological approach. Also, it provides inspiration and basic knowledge about agricultural techniques for anyone trying to farm in the old way. Published over the years 1968-1995 it pulled together a significant number of research projects from around the world, a remarkable effort in the days without internet.

Today, the number of people studying agricultural history is on the rise again. Also, museums continue to interpret the meaning and method of the ancient lore and practices of rural life. Recently, a group of people who work with agricultural museums, experimental archaeology, living history farms, and open-air museums joined forces to try and make Tools & Tillage more widely available. More precisely, the institutions involved are

Together with the University Library at Heidelberg and with the avid support of Dr Grith Lerche, the only remaining editor of Tools & Tillage, and the owner of the copyrights the seven volumes have been digitised and made available for the public as open source. All-in-all, the scanned material includes 137 articles and 1,776 pages.

As debates about environmental change gain intensity, and as agricultural practices factor significantly in these debates, the research published in Tools & Tillage seems more and more essential to our collective understanding, Exarc writes. The University Library Heidelberg scanned the material and made the material available, including a full-text search of the 137 articles in 1,776 pages.

The full journal is made available for dissemination and preservation of the electronic files under a (CC BY 4.0) license at: