Magic lantern slides of a British Summer 270

The inexorable rise of all things digital is fascinating to watch and benefits us all, well those of us lucky enough to live in the first world ….. I wonder which countries are in the second world? Driverless cars are with us now, in trial form at least, and will be a common sight on our roads in ten years’ time.

Self-driving technology will also have a huge impact on farming. Imagery from satellites and drones can already detect the health of crops and their readiness for harvesting. (I know about these things, I occasionally listen to the Archers). Not too far in the future, data from them will be transmitted to driverless tractors which will roam our fields planting seed, watering, spraying chemicals and harvesting crops using algorithms that maximise yield and minimise costs.

Victorian farmers had their own technological revolution, as machinery pulled by horses and powered by stationary traction engines reduced the need for vast numbers of agricultural workers. 272

It’s tempting to look back at photos of farm labourers through a nostalgic filter, endless sunny days, working together in natural harmony to bring in the hay etc. The reality would have been very different of course, long days and hard work for little pay.

Today’s slides reflect three different views of rural life. The first is a delightful photo of a horse-drawn reaper (I think that’s what it is) and someone has written a verse of poetry on it, so it definitely falls into the rose-tinted spectacles category. The next is of three farmhands grafting, washing sheep, and the last is a posed group of farm labourers. There are thirteen men in the photo and a dog and they’ve been snapped while having a lunch break. Presumably their work could now be accomplished by one man and an expensive tractor and the technological trajectory would suggest that given GPS, a drone, a self-driving tractor, some clever software and the internet, their work will one day be done by someone (or possibly a computer) located in an office anywhere in the world. 271

If you found this interesting, please share it with your family and friends. If you’re not reading it on my ‘Magic Lantern World‘ website, then please visit. There are over one hundred illustrated articles about Victorian slide projection and links to my historical photo-booklets on Amazon, my Ebay shop for magic lantern slides and Etsy store for historical photo greetings cards with a twist. You can read about my authentic Victorian magic lantern shows and talks on ‘Optical entertainments before the movies’ and lots more!

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