Radio 4 'In Our Time' -- The Enclosures

Paul Mobbs mobbsey at
Thu May 1 23:27:44 BST 2008

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Pity they can't spell 'Inclosure'!

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In the early 19th century, the Northamptonshire poet John Clare took a good 
look at the countryside and didn’t like what he saw. He wrote:

"Fence meeting fence in owners little bounds
Of field and meadow, large as garden-grounds,
In little parcels little minds to please,
With men and flocks imprisoned, ill at ease."

He was referring to the effects of the Enclosures – literally the fencing in 
of land to stop others from using it. This apparently simple act has been 
hugely controversial. For some Enclosure underpinned the economic and 
agricultural development of Modern Britain. For others it was an act of 
theft – the turning of common land into private property that impoverished 
the many for the sake of the few.

But what really happened during the era of 18th and 19th century enclosures? 
Who gained, who lost and what role did Enclosures play in the agricultural 
and industrial transformation of this country?


Rosemary Sweet, Director of the Centre for Urban History at the University of 

Murray Pittock, Bradley Professor of English Literature at the University of 

Mark Overton, Professor of Economic and Social History at the University of 

- -- 

"We are not for names, nor men, nor titles of Government,
nor are we for this party nor against the other but we are
for justice and mercy and truth and peace and true freedom,
that these may be exalted in our nation, and that goodness,
righteousness, meekness, temperance, peace and unity with
God, and with one another, that these things may abound."
(Edward Burroughs, 1659 - from 'Quaker Faith and Practice')

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