Set My Hand Upon The Plough by E. M. Barraud

‘It was the war which liberated Barraud from her life of clerical drudgery in the City and sent her to a rural England where, it appears, she made no compromise of her identity.’ Luke Turner

‘[Barraud’s] voice is authentic, as well it should be after her years of close contact with the land, its moods, its workers, the ups and downs, the trials, the moments of despair and the moments of pure pleasure.’ Vita Sackville-West , quoted in ‘The Agricultural Writings of E. M. Barraud’ by Dr Pippa Marland in Agricultural History Review.

In 1939 the writer Enid Barraud, disillusioned with her life as an insurance clerk, left London and went to live in a village in Cambridgeshire, joining what became known as the Land Army, one of thousands of women who went to work the land while war raged overhead and abroad. In her recently rediscovered memoir, Set My Hand Upon the Plough, first published in 1946, Enid writes with remarkable detail, candour and honesty about her life on the farm, and her relationship with the farm workers. Barraud preferred to identify as male, was known to her co-workers as John, and lived with her female partner. Based on her wartime diaries and her contributions to Mass Observation the book also reveals Barraud’s sexuality, and it now joins the ranks of LGBT memoirs, casting new light on the lives of the men and women who fought or who worked on the home front and their vital role in the liberation of Europe.

Our new edition of Set My Hand Upon the Plough has a new introduction by Luke Turner.



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E. M. Barraud (1904-1972) was a writer, journalist, academic and poet, whose books included Set My Hand Upon the Plough and Tail Corn, a memoir of rural life. The day after the outbreak of the Second World War she joined what would become known as the Women’s Land Army. Her farming work informed her many contributions to Mass Observation. In later life she worked at the Zoology department at Cambridge University and wrote several important papers on non-binary behaviour in some animals. She lived at Little Eversden in Cambridgeshire, where she had worked as a ‘Land Girl’, for the rest of her life.

Luke Turner is the author of Out of the Woods and Men at War, and the founder of the influential music website the Quietus.


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