Turning DDT into ‘Didimac’: Making insecticide products and consumers in British farming after 1945

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This paper examines the adoption of DDT and other insecticides in British farming after 1945 to consider the notion that new synthetic insecticides were taken up rapidly. It shows that the uptake of chemical insecticides during the 1940s and 1950s was slower in many agricultural sectors than accounts have often suggested, and slower than the uptake of other agrochemicals, such as herbicides. Importantly, this paper shows that the extent of use before 1965 varied a great deal according to crop or farming sector and also according to the type of insecticide product. Historians have not sufficiently engaged with the fact that farmers did not purchase the raw chemicals, DDT or BHC, they bought insecticide products – a diverse range of formulations for spraying, dusting or the treatment of seeds. This paper shows how the adoption of insecticidal products on a large scale in the post-war period resulted from various types of work by business and government. The very close relationship between state and business gained its legitimacy from its location in a historical moment in which greater output and efficiency in farming had become a national goal.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)31-61
Number of pages32
JournalHistory & Technology
Issue number1
Early online date13 Jul 2022
Publication statusPublished - 30 Aug 2022

Bibliographical note

© 2022 The Author(s)


  • DDT, farming, insecticide

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