The Land issue 11 out now - plus a top flight back article

Tony Gosling tony at
Fri Feb 3 00:25:48 GMT 2012

A Short History of Enclosure in Britain (see below)
Simon Fairlie describes how the progressive 
enclosure of commons over several centuries has 
deprived most of the British people of access to agricultural land...

The Land Issue No 11, Winter 2011-12

The Great Bovine TB Cover-up Cute badgers, sick 
cows, and unhelpful rules. Greenest Government 
Ever? No prizes for guessing the answer.

Get Real It's time the countryside occupied the Stock Exchange.

Wikileaks Exposes GM lobbying and WTO Claims Free 
Markets Bring Food Security Fighting Back against 
Land Grabbing and Profiting from Rising Food Prices
Good News on CAP? and Occupy Everywhere

Another God Delusion? Mum HANNIS on the pessimism 
of Mark Lynas. Open Source Biotech Can we resist 
GM if it goes viral? asks SIMON FAIRLIE.

A Sense of Ownership ROBIN MAYNARD puts the case for keeping forests public.
In Woods We Trust DAVE BANGS wonders which side the NGOs are on.
Who Needs It? MIKE ABBOTT thinks we could do without the Forestry Commission.
Could Try Harder MIKE GARDNER speaks up for independent foresters.
The More we are Together Can subdivision of woodlands lead to their cohesion?
Small Woodland Livings Getting back to work in the woods.
"Britain's New Forest Villages" Accommodation for 
forest workers, past and present.
Seeing the Forest, not Just the Trees Trees are 
not the only vegetation, says HELEN BACZKOWSKA. 
Tree Fetishism Think before you plant, cautions SIMON FAIRLIE.
Agroforestry in the UK ED HAMER finds that 
farming under trees can work very nicely.
Wood is Good? Can it really be carbon neutral to 
burn wood in power stations, asks MIKE HANNIS. 
Biomass - A Burning Issue NICK GRANT and ALAN 
CLARKE on the contradictions of biomass boilers. 
Has Biochar Gone too Far? GILL BARRON gives a 
ground-level perspective on charcoal.
Back to the Trees ROBERT SOMERVILLE, architect 
and timber framer, on using what we've got.
A Forest Uprising GILL BARRON finds a precedent for rural revolution.

See You on the Streets, Amigos GILL BARRON is 
climbing the walls at the Tories' squatting folly.
Land Registry Privatisation The new Public Data 
Corporation will be more corporate than public.
Salad Days The rise, fall and possible rebirth of 
the Land Settlement Association.
Tyrannosaurus Regs Is there life after planning? 
No, there are building regulations, warns SIMON DALE.
Blunt Instruments How the BREEAM Code for 
Sustainable Homes discriminates against low 
impact dwellings. Working Against Nature Chapter 
7 responds to Nick Grant and Alan Clarke.
One Planet Footprint SIMON FAIRLIE asks why no 
one is looking at edge-of-settlement One Planet 
Developments. Planning Policy Framework No one is 
taken in by the Tory presumption in favour of 
sustainable development. Neighbourhood Planning 
on Exmoor JAMES SHORTEN reports on a pilot exercise in "localism".
New Enforcement Powers The Localism Act contains some worrying measures.
Development Control Mostly concerning Mid Devon.
Announcements and Publications
Articles not attributed to an author are written by the editors.

The Land 11 Winter 2011-12 ­
Prices include postage. Cheques made out to Chapter 7.
Low Impact Development: Planning and People in a 
Sustainable Countryside by Simon Fairlie
After five years out of print, a new edition of 
the original book on LID, with two new chapters. £16.00
Cotters and Squatters, by Colin Ward, Five Leaves 2002.
A study of the "one night house" and other 
squatter houses throughout British history.
Arcadia for All, by Dennis Hardy and Colin Ward, 
Five Leaves, 
1he only history of the Plotlands. "1he best book 
ever written on the UK planning system. . . you 
will never look at Peacehaven or Basildon in the same light again. "
Surviving and Thriving on the Land, by Rebecca Laughton. £16.00

How to use your time and energy to run a successful small holding
Small is Successful, by Rebecca Laughton, Larch 
Maxey, Oli Rodke and Zoe Wangler.
Case studies of eight viable small holdings on 
under ten acres, published by Ecological Land Co-op£11.00

Meat: A Benign Extravagance, by Simon Fairlie
An enquiry into the environmental impact of 
livestock - '.an abattoir for dodgy arguments" (G Monbiot)
Sustainable Homes and Livelihoods in the Countryside
Chapter 7s report advocating changes to planning 
policy in the countryside. 52 pages
Low Impact Policies for Local Development Frameworks by Chapter 7
A useful template for low impact policies to 
submit to your own local authority. 28 pages.
Food for Thought by The Balham Hill Farm Interim Collective
A Proposal for Maximising the Potential of Balham 
Hill and other County Farms for Local Food Production
THE LAND BOOKSHELF Monkton Wyld Court, Charmouth, Bridport, Dorset DT6 6DQ
                        01297 561359...,. chapter7 at

TLIO Gathering 2011
The first TUO Gathering for 11 years took place 
at Monkton Wyld 8-9 October, attended by 70+ 
people, with talks and workshops led by seasoned 
campaigners on the CAP, GM, land trusts, 
affordable housing, the fight against megafarms, 
squatting, low impact smallholdings and 
homesteads, forests, planning and the Localism 
Bill, Reclaim The Fields, and a plenary which opened wider debate.
The attendance was equally broad, from far and 
wide, with many younger people including Reclaim 
the Fields activists, assorted elders of the movement, faces old and new.
Reclaim the Fields reported on an action opposing 
an open cast gold mine in Rosia Montana, Romania, 
and dis­cussed their campaigning priorities. This 
combined with a film about young entrants to 
farming, presented by Russell Carrington, a Young Farmer from Herefordshire.
Saturday's entertainments included a country 
walk, a farm tour with Jyoti Fernandes, and 
skiffle band The Dead Plants playing in the marquee till late.
On Sunday all participants came together for a 
debate facilitated by Maria Franchi, with 
speakers Jack Thurston on CAP, Eleanor Firman 
(Labour Land Campaign) on Land Value Tax (LVT), 
and Simon Fairlie on planning matters.
Many issues and potential actions were discussed; 
two which attracted much support were holding a 
yurt-build­ing weekend in spring, and a land 
occupation campaign related to the Land Registry privatisation (see p51).
To keep in touch and follow developments, send a 
blank email to 
<thelandisours-subscribe at> Entitle 
your email 'subscribe'. Reclaim the Fields:

A Short History of Enclosure in Britain
Simon Fairlie describes how the progressive 
enclosure of commons over several centuries has 
deprived most of the British people of access to 
agricultural land. The historical process bears 
little relationship to the “Tragedy of the 
Commons”, the theory which ideologues in the 
neoliberal era adopted as part of a smear 
campaign against common property institutions.

Over the course of a few hundred years, much of 
Britain's land has been privatized — that is to 
say taken out of some form of collective 
ownership and management and handed over to 
individuals. Currently, in our "property-owning 
democracy", nearly half the country is owned by 
40,000 land millionaires, or 0.06 per cent of the 
population,1 while most of the rest of us spend 
half our working lives paying off the debt on a 
patch of land barely large enough to accommodate a dwelling and a washing line.

There are many factors that have led to such 
extreme levels of land concentration, but the 
most blatant and the most contentious has been 
enclosure — the subdivision and fencing of common 
land into individual plots which were allocated 
to those people deemed to have held rights to the 
land enclosed. For over 500 years, pamphleteers, 
politicians and historians have argued about 
enclosure, those in favour (including the 
beneficiaries) insisting that it was necessary 
for economic development or "improvement", and 
those against (including the dispossessed) 
claiming that it deprived the poor of their 
livelihoods and led to rural depopulation. Reams 
of evidence derived from manorial rolls, tax 
returns, field orders and so on have been 
painstakingly unearthed to support either side. 
Anyone concocting a resumé of enclosure such as 
the one I present here cannot ignore E P 
Thompson's warning: "A novice in agricultural 
history caught loitering in those areas with 
intent would quickly be despatched."2
But over the last three decades, the enclosure 
debate has been swept up in a broader discourse 
on the nature of common property of any kind. The 
overgrazing of English common land has been held 
up as the archetypal example of the "tragedy of 
the commons" — the fatal deficiency that a 
neoliberal intelligentsia holds to be inherent in 
all forms of common property. Attitudes towards 
enclosures in the past were always ideologically 
charged, but now any stance taken towards them 
betrays a parallel approach to the crucial issues 
of our time: the management of global commons and 
the conflict between the global and the local, 
between development and diversity.

Those of us who have not spent a lifetime 
studying agricultural history should beware of 
leaping to convenient conclusions about the past, 
for nothing is quite what it seems. But no one 
who wishes to engage with the environmental 
politics of today can afford to plead agnostic on 
the dominant social conflict of our recent past. 
The account of enclosure that follows is offered 
with this in mind, and so I plead guilty to "loitering with intent".
The Tragedy of the Commons

In December 1968 Science magazine published a 
paper by Garrett Hardin entitled "The Tragedy of 
the Commons".3 How it came to be published in a 
serious academic journal is a mystery, since its 
central thesis, in the author's own words, is 
what "some would say is a platitude", while most 
of the paper consists of the sort of socio-babble 
that today can be found on the average blog. The 
conclusion, that "the alternative of the commons 
is too horrifying to contemplate," is about as 
far removed from a sober scientific judgment as one could imagine.

Yet "The Tragedy of the Commons" became one of 
the most cited academic papers ever published and 
its title a catch phrase. It has framed the 
debate about common property for the last 30 
years, and has exerted a baleful influence upon 
international development and environmental 
policy, even after Hardin himself admitted that 
he had got it wrong, and rephrased his entire theory.

But Hardin did get one thing right, and that is 
the reason for the lasting influence of his 
paper. He recognized that the common ownership of 
land, and the history of its enclosure, provides 
a template for understanding the enclosure of 
other common resources, ranging from the 
atmosphere and the oceans to pollution sinks and 
intellectual property. The physical fences and 
hedges that staked out the privateownership of 
the fields of England, are shadowed by the 
metaphorical fences that now delineate more 
sophisticated forms of private property. That 
Hardin misinterpreted the reasons and motives for 
fencing off private property is regrettable, and 
the overview of land enclosure in Britain that 
follows is just one of many attempts to put the 
record straight. But Hardin must nonetheless be 
credited for steering the environmental debate 
towards the crucial question of who owns the 
global resources that are, undeniably, "a common treasury for all".

Hardin's basic argument (or "platitude") was that 
common property systems allow individuals to 
benefit at a cost to the community, and therefore 
are inherently prone to decay, ecological 
exhaustion and collapse. Hardin got the idea for 
his theory from the Oxford economist, the Rev 
William Forster Lloyd who in 1833 wrote:

"Why are the cattle on a common so puny and 
stunted? Why is the common itself so bareworn and 
cropped so differently from the adjoining 
enclosures? If a person puts more cattle into his 
own field, the amount of the subsistence which 
they consume is all deducted from that which was 
at the command of his original stock; and if, 
before, there was no more than a sufficiency of 
pasture, he reaps no benefit from the additional 
cattle, what is gained one way, being lost in 
another. But if he puts more cattle on a common, 
the food which they consume forms a deduction 
which is shared between all the cattle, as well 
that of others as his own, and only a small part 
of it is taken from his own cattle."5

This is a neat description, and anybody who has 
lived in a communal situation will recognize 
that, as an analogy of human behaviour, there is 
more than a grain of truth in it: individuals 
often seek to profit from communal largesse if 
they can get away with it. Or as John Hales put 
it in 1581, "that which is possessed of manie in 
common is neglected by all." Hardin, however, 
takes Lloyd's observation and transforms it by 
injecting the added ingredient of "tragic" inevitability:

"The rational herdsman concludes that the only 
sensible course for him to pursue is to add 
another animal to his herd. And another; and 
another . . . But this is the conclusion reached 
by each and every rational herdsman sharing a 
commons. Therein is the tragedy. Each man is 
locked into a system that compels him to increase 
his herd without limit — in a world that is 
limited. Ruin is the destination toward which all 
men rush, each pursuing his own best interest in 
a society that believes in the freedom of the 
commons. Freedom in a commons brings ruin to all."

Having established that "the inherent logic of 
the commons remorselessly generates tragedy", 
Hardin then proceeds to apply this tragedy to 
every kind of common property that he can think 
of. From fish populations to national parks and 
polluted streams to parking lots, wherever 
resources are held in common, there lies the path 
to over-exploitation and ruin, from which, he 
suggests, there is one preferred route of escape: 
"the Tragedy of the Commons, as a food basket, is 
averted by private property, or something formally like it."

Hardin continues:
"An alternative to the commons need not be 
perfectly just to be preferable. With real estate 
and other material goods, the alternative we have 
chosen is the institution of private property 
coupled with legal inheritance. Is this system 
perfectly just? . . . We must admit that our 
legal system of private property plus inheritance 
is unjust — but we put up with it because we are 
not convinced, at the moment, that anyone has 
invented a better system. The alternative of the 
commons is too horrifying to contemplate. 
Injustice is preferable to total ruin."

To be fair to Hardin, most of the above was 
incidental to his main point which was the need 
for population control. But it was music to the 
ears of free market economists who were convinced 
that private property rights were the solution to 
every social ill. A scientific, peer-reviewed, 
mathematical formula proving that common property 
led inexorably to ruin, and postulating that 
privatization, even unjust privatization, was the 
solution — and all encapsulated under the neat 
title of Tragedy of the Commons — what could be 
better? From the 1970s to the 1990s Hardin's 
Tragedy was picked up by right wing theorists and 
neo-colonial development agencies, to justify 
unjust and sometimes ruinous privatization 
schemes. In particular, it provided agencies such 
as the World Bank and marine economists with the 
rationale for the enclosure and privatization of 
fisheries through the creation, sale and trade of quotas.6

But as well as being one of the most cited 
papers, it was also one of the most heavily 
criticized, particularly by anthropologists and 
historians who cited innumerable instances where 
limited common resources were managed 
satisfactorily. What Hardin's theory overlooks, 
said E P Thompson "is that commoners were not 
without commonsense."7 The anthropologist Arthur 
McEvoy made the same point, arguing that the 
Tragedy "misrepresents the way common lands were 
used in the archetypal case" (ie England before enclosure):

"English farmers met twice a year at manor court 
to plan production for the coming months. On 
those occasions they certainly would have 
exchanged information about the state of their 
lands and sanctioned those who took more than 
their fair share from the common pool . . . The 
shortcoming of the tragic myth of the commons is 
its strangely unidimensional picture of human 
nature. The farmers on Hardin's pasture do not 
seem to talk to one another. As individuals, they 
are alienated, rational, utility-maximizing 
automatons and little else. The sum total of 
their social life is the grim, Hobbesian struggle 
of each against all, and all together against the 
pasture in which they are trapped."8

Faced with a barrage of similar evidence about 
both historical and existing commons, Hardin in 
the early 1990s, retracted his original thesis, conceding:
"The title of my 1968 paper should have been 'The 
Tragedy of the Unmanaged Commons' . . . Clearly 
the background of the resources discussed by 
Lloyd (and later by myself) was one of 
non-management of the commons under conditions of scarcity."9

In fact, this background wasn't clear at all, 
since it makes a nonsense of the idea of an 
inexorable tragedy. If degradation results from 
non-management and collapse can be averted by 
sound management, then there can be no 
"remorseless logic" leading to inevitable "ruin". 
Nor is there any reason why a private property 
regime (particularly an unjust one) should 
necessarily be preferable to the alternative of 
maintaining sound management of a commonly owned resource.

But even within the confined parameters of 
Hardin's "Hobbesian struggle of each against 
all", one wonders whether he has got it right. Is 
it really economically rational for a farmer to 
go on placing more and more stock on the pasture? 
If he does so, he will indeed obtain a higher 
return relative to his colleagues, but he will 
get a lower return relative to his capital 
investment in livestock; beyond a certain level 
of degradation he would be wiser to invest his 
money elsewhere. Besides — and this is a critical 
matter in pre-industrial farming systems — only a 
small number of wealthy farmers are likely to be 
able to keep sufficient stock through the winter 
to pursue this option. The most "rational" 
approach for powerful and unscrupulous actors is 
not to accrue vast herds of increasingly decrepit 
animals; it is to persuade everybody else that 
common ownership is inefficient (or even leads 
remorselessly to ruin) and therefore should be 
replaced with a private property system, of which 
they will be the beneficiaries. And of course the 
more stock they pile onto the commons, the more 
it appears that the system isn't working.10

The following account provides a generalized 
overview of the forces that led to inequitable 
reallocation of once communal resources. The 
over-exploitation of poorly regulated commons, as 
described by William Lloyd, certainly played a 
role at times, but there is no evidence, from 
Hardin or anyone else, that degradation of the 
land was inevitable or inexorable. At least as 
prominent in the story is the prolonged assault 
upon the commons by those who wanted to establish 
ownership for their own private gain — together 
with the ideological support from the likes of 
Lloyd and Hardin that has been used to clothe 
what otherwise often looks like naked acquisitiveness.
The Open Field System

Private ownership of land, and in particular 
absolute private ownership, is a modern idea, 
only a few hundred years old. "The idea that one 
man could possess all rights to one stretch of 
land to the exclusion of everybody else" was 
outside the comprehension of most tribespeople, 
or indeed of medieval peasants. The king, or the 
Lord of the Manor, might have owned an estate in 
one sense of the word, but the peasant enjoyed 
all sorts of so-called "usufructory" rights which 
enabled him, or her, to graze stock, cut wood or 
peat, draw water or grow crops, on various plots 
of land at specified times of year.

The open field system of farming, which dominated 
the flatter more arable central counties of 
England throughout the later medieval and into 
the modern period, is a classic common property 
system which can be seen in many parts of the 
world. The structure of the open fields system in 
Britain was influenced by the introduction of the 
caruca a large wheeled plough, developed by the 
Gauls, which was much more capable of dealing 
with heavy English clay soils than the 
lightweight Roman aratrum (Fr araire ). The 
caruca required a larger team of oxen to pull it 
—as many as eight on heavy soils — and was 
awkward to turn around, so very long strips were 
ideal. Most peasants could not afford a whole 
team of oxen, just one or two, so maintaining an 
ox team had to be a joint enterprise. Peasants 
would work strips of land, possibly proportionate 
to their investment in the ox team. The lands 
were farmed in either a two or three course 
rotation, with one year being fallow, so each 
peasant needed an equal number of strips in each 
section to maintain a constant crop year on year.

Furthermore, because the fields were grazed by 
the village herds when fallow, or after harvest, 
there was no possibility for the individual to 
change his style of farming: he had to do what 
the others were doing, when they did it, 
otherwise his crops would get grazed by 
everyone's animals. The livestock were also fed 
on hay from communal meadows (the distribution of 
hay was sometimes decided by an annual lottery 
for different portions of the field) and on communal pastures.

The open field system was fairly equitable, and 
from their analysis of the only remaining example 
of open field farming, at Laxton, Notts, the 
Orwins demonstrate that it was one where a lad 
with no capital or land to his name could 
gradually build up a larger holding in the communal land:
"A man may have no more than an acre or two, but 
he gets the full extent of them laid out in long 
"lands" for ploughing, with no hedgerows to 
reduce the effective area, and to occupy him in 
unprofitable labour. No sort of inclosure of the 
same size can be conceived which would give him 
equivalent facilities. Moreover he has his common 
rights which entitle him to graze his stock all 
over the 'lands' and these have a value, the 
equivalent of which in pasture fields would cost 
far more than he could afford to pay."11

In short, the common field system, rather 
ingeniously, made economies of scale, including 
use of a whopping great plough team, potentially 
accessible to small scale farmers. The downside 
was a sacrifice of freedom (or "choice" as it is 
now styled), but that is in the nature of 
economies of scale when they are equitably 
distributed — and when they are inequitably 
distributed some people have no choice at all. 
The open field system probably offered more 
independence to the peasant than a New World 
latifundia, or a fully collectivized communist 
farm. One irony of these economies of scale is 
that when large-scale machinery arrived, farmers 
who had enclosed open fields had to start ripping out their hedges again.
It is hard to see how Harding's Tragedy of the 
Commons has any bearing upon the rise and fall of 
this open field system. Far from collapsing as a 
result of increased population, the development 
of open field systems often occurred quite late 
in the Middle Ages, and may even have been a 
response to increasing population pressure, 
according to a paper by Joan Thirsk.12 When there 
was plenty of uncultivated land left to clear, 
people were able to stake out private plots of 
land without impinging too much upon others; when 
there was less land to go round, or when a single 
holding was divided amongst two or three heirs, 
there was pressure to divide arable land into 
strips and manage it semi-collectively.

The open fields were not restricted to any one 
kind of social structure or land tenure system. 
In England they evolved under Saxon rule and 
continued through the era of Norman serfdom. 
After the Black Death serfdom gave way to 
customary land tenure known as copyhold and as 
the moneyeconomy advanced this in turn gave way 
to leasehold. But none of these changes appeared 
to diminish the effectiveness of the open field 
system. On the other hand, in Celtic areas, and 
in other peripheral regions that were hilly or 
wooded, open fields were much less widespread, 
and enclosure of private fields occurred earlier 
(and probably more equitably) than it did in the central arable counties.

However, open fields were by no means restricted 
to England. Being a natural and reasonably 
equitable expression of a certain level of 
technology, the system was and still is found in 
many regions around the world. According to one 
French historian, "it must be emphasised that in 
France, open fields were the agricultural system 
of the most modernised regions, those which 
Quesnay cites as regions of 'high farming'."13 
There are reports of similar systems of open 
field farming all over the world, for example in 
Anatolia, Turkey in the 1950s; and in Tigray, 
Ethiopia where the system is still widespread. In 
one area, in Tigray, Irob, "to avoid profiteering 
by ox owners of oxenless landowners, ox owners 
are obliged to first prepare the oxenless 
landowners' land and then his own. The oxenless 
landowners in return assist by supplying feed for 
the animals they use to plough the land."14
Sheep Devour People

However, as medieval England progressed to 
modernity, the open field system and the communal 
pastures came under attack from wealthy 
landowners who wanted to privatize their use. The 
first onslaught, during the 14th to 17th 
centuries, came from landowners who converted 
arable land over to sheep, with legal support 
from the Statute of Merton of 1235. Villages were 
depopulated and several hundred seem to have 
disappeared. The peasantry responded with a 
series of ill fated revolts. In the 1381 
Peasants' Revolt, enclosure was an issue, albeit 
not the main one. In Jack Cade's rebellion of 
1450 land rights were a prominent demand.15 By 
the time of Kett's rebellion of 1549 enclosure 
was a main issue, as it was in the Captain Pouch 
revolts of 1604-1607 when the terms "leveller" 
and "digger" appeared, referring to those who 
levelled the ditches and fences erected by enclosers.16

The first recorded written complaint against 
enclosure was made by a Warwickshire priest, John 
Rous, in his History of the Kings of England, 
published around 1459-86.17 The first complaint 
by a celebrity (and 500 years later it remains 
the most celebrated denounciation of enclosure) was by Thomas More in Utopia:

"Your shepe that were wont to be so meke and 
tame, and so smal eaters, now, as I heare saye, 
be become so great devowerers and so wylde, that 
they eate up and swallow down the very men them 
selfes. They consume, destroye, and devoure whole 
fields, howses and cities . . . Noble man 
andgentleman, yea and certeyn Abbottes leave no 
ground for tillage, thei inclose all into 
pastures; they throw down houses; they pluck down 
townes, and leave nothing standynge but only the 
churche to be made a shepehowse."18

Other big names of the time weighed in with 
similar views: Thomas Wolsey, Hugh Latimer, 
William Tyndale, Lord Somerset and Francis Bacon 
all agreed, and even though all of these were 
later executed, as were Cade, Kett and Pouch 
(they did Celebrity Big Brother properly in those 
days), the Tudor and Stuart monarchs took note 
and introduced a number of laws and commissions 
which managed to keep a check on the process of 
enclosure. One historian concludes from the 
number of anti-enclosure commissions set up by 
Charles I that he was "the one English monarch of 
outstanding importance as an agrarian 
reformer."19 But (as we shall see) Charles was 
not averse to carrying out enclosures of his own.

The Diggers

A somewhat different approach emerged during the 
English Revolution when Gerrard Winstanley and 
fellow diggers, in 1649, started cultivating land 
on St George's Hill, Surrey, and proclaimed a 
free Commonwealth. "The earth (which was made to 
be a Common Treasury of relief for all, both 
Beasts and Men)" state the Diggers in their first 
manifesto "was hedged into Inclosures by the 
teachers and rulers, and the others were made 
Servants and Slaves." The same pamphlet warned: 
"Take note that England is not a Free people, 
till the Poor that have no Land, have a free 
allowance to dig and labour the Commons, and so 
live as Comfortably as the Landlords that live in their Inclosures."20

The Diggers appear to be not so much a resistance 
movement of peasants in the course of being 
squeezed off the land, as an inspired attempt to 
reclaim the land by people whose historical ties 
may well have already been dissolved, some 
generations previously. Like many radicals 
Winstanley was a tradesman in the textile 
industry. William Everard, his most prominent 
colleague, was a cashiered army officer. It is 
tempting to see the Diggers as the original "back 
to the land" movement, a bunch of idealistic 
drop-outs.21 Winstanley wrote so many pamphlets 
in such a short time that one wonders whether he 
had time to wield anything heavier than a pen. 
Nevertheless during 1649 he was earning his money 
as a hired cowherd; and no doubt at least some of 
the diggers were from peasant backgrounds.

More to the point, the Diggers weren't trying to 
stop "inclosures"; they didn't go round tearing 
down fences and levelling ditches, like both 
earlier and later rebels. In a letter to the head 
of the army, Fairfax, Winstanley stated that if 
some wished to "call the Inclosures [their] own 
land . . . we are not against it," though this 
may have been just a diplomatic gesture. Instead 
they wanted to create their own alternative 
Inclosure which would be a "Common Treasury of 
All" and where commoners would have "the freedom 
of the land for their livelihood . . . as the 
Gentry hathe the benefit of their Inclosures". 
Winstanley sometimes speaks the same language of 
"improvement" as the enclosers, but wishes to see 
its benefits extended to the poor rather than 
reserved for wealthy: "If the wasteland of 
England were manured by her children it would 
become in a few years the richest, the strongest 
and the most flourishing land in the world".22 In 
some ways the Diggers foreshadow the 
smallholdings and allotments movements of the 
late 19th and 20th century and the partageux of 
the French revolution — poor peasants who 
favoured the enclosure of commons if it resulted 
in their distribution amongst the landless.

It is slightly surprising that the matter of 50 
or so idealists planting carrots on a bit of 
wasteland and proclaiming that the earth was a 
"Common Treasury" should have attracted so much 
attention, both from the authorities at the time, 
and from subsequent historians and campaigners. 
200 years before, at the head of his following of 
Kentish peasants (described by Shakespeare as 
"the filth and scum of Kent") Jack Cade persuaded 
the first army dispatched by the king to pack up 
and go home, skilfully evaded a second army of 
15,000 men led by Henry VI himself, and then 
defeated a third army, killing two of the king's 
generals, before being finally apprehended and 
beheaded. Although pictured by the sycophantic 
author of Henry VI Part II as a brutal and 
blustering fool with pretensions above his 
station, Cade was reported by contemporaries to 
be "a young man of goodlie stature and right 
pregnant of wit".23 He is potentially good 
material for a romantic Hollywood blockbuster 
starring Johnny Depp, whereas Winstanley (who has 
had a film made about him), after the Digger 
episode, apparently settled into middle age as a 
Quaker, a church warden and finally a chief constable.24
The Blacks

Winstanley and associates were lucky not to die 
on the scaffold. The habit of executing 
celebrities was suspended during the Interregnum 
— after the beheading of Charles I, anyone else 
would have been an anticlimax. Executions were 
resumed (but mainly for plebs, not celebs) 
initially by Judge Jeffries in his Bloody Assizes 
in 1686 and subsequently some 70 years later with 
the introduction of the Black Acts.

The Black Acts were the vicious response of prime 
minister Walpole and his cronies to increasing 
resistance to the enclosure of woodlands. The 
rights of commoners to take firewood, timber and 
game from woodlands, and to graze pigs in them, 
had been progressively eroded for centuries: free 
use of forests and abolition of game laws was one 
of the demands that Richard II agreed to with his 
fingers crossed when he confronted Wat Tyler 
during the 1381 Peasants Revolt.25 But in the 
early 18th century the process accelerated as 
wealthy landowners enclosed forests for parks and 
hunting lodges, dammed rivers for fishponds, and 
allowed their deer to trash local farmer's crops.

Commoners responded by organizing vigilante bands 
which committed ever more brazen acts of 
resistance. One masked gang, whose leader styled 
himself King John, on one morning in 1721, killed 
11 deer out of the Bishop's Park at Farnham and 
rode through Farnham market with them at 7 am in 
triumph. On another occasion when a certain Mr 
Wingfield started charging poor people for 
offcuts of felled timber which they had 
customarily had for free, King John and his merry 
men ring-barked a plantation belonging to 
Wingfield, leaving a note saying that if he 
didn't return the money to the peasants, more 
trees would be destroyed. Wingfield paid up. King 
John could come and go as he pleased because he 
had local support — on one occasion, to refute a 
charge of Jacobinism, he called the 18th century 
equivalent of a press-conference near an inn on 
Waltham Chase. He turned up with 15 of his 
followers, and with 300 of the public assembled, 
the authorities made no attempt to apprehend him. 
He was never caught, and for all we know also 
eventually became a chief constable.26

Gangs such as these, who sooted their faces, both 
as a disguise and so as not to be spotted at 
night, were known as "the blacks", and so the 
legislation introduced two years later in 1723 
was known as the Black Act. Without doubt the 
most viciously repressive legislation enacted in 
Britain in the last 400 years, this act 
authorized the death penalty for more than 50 
offences connected with poaching. The act stayed 
on the statute books for nearly a century, 
hundreds were hanged for the crime of feeding 
themselves with wild meat, and when the act was 
finally repealed, poachers were, instead, 
transported to the Antipodes for even minor offences.

This episode in English history lives on in folk 
songs, such as Geordie and Van Dieman's Land. The 
origins of the Black Act, and in particular the 
exceptional unpleasantness of prime minister 
Walpole, are superbly recounted in E P Thompson's 
Whigs and Hunters. Resistance to forest enclosure 
was by no means confined to England. In France 
there was mass resistance to the state's 
take-over of numerous communal forests: in the 
Ariège, the Guerre des Demoiselles involved 
attacks by 20 or 30, and on occasion even up to 
800 peasants, disguised as women.23 In Austria, 
the "war of the mountains" between poachers and 
the gamekeepers of the Empire continued for 
centuries, the last poacher to be shot dead being Pius Walder in 1982.24
Draining the Fens

Another area which harboured remnants of a hunter 
gatherer economy was the fenland of Holland in 
south Lincolnshire, and the Isle of Axholme in 
the north of the county. Although the main earner 
was the summer grazing of rich common pastures 
with dairy cattle, horses and geese, in winter, 
when large tracts of the commons were inundated, 
fishing and fowling became an important source of 
income, and for those with no land to keep beasts 
on over winter it was probably a main source of 
income. During the Middle Ages, Holland was well 
off — its tax assessment per acre was the third 
highest in the kingdom in 1334 — and this wealth 
was relatively equitably distributed with "a 
higher proportion of small farmers and a lower 
proportion of very wealthy ones".29

In the early 1600s, the Stuart kings James I and 
Charles I, hard up for cash, embarked on a policy 
of draining the fenland commons to provide 
valuable arable land that would yield the crown a 
higher revenue. Dutch engineers, notably 
Cornelius Vermuyden, were employed to undertake 
comprehensive drainage schemes which cost the 
crown not a penny, because the developers were 
paid by being allocated a third of the land enclosed and drained.

The commoners' resistance to the drainage schemes 
was vigorous. A 1646 pamphlet with the title The 
Anti-Projector must be one of the earliesr grass 
roots denunciations of a capitalist development 
project, and makes exactly the same points that 
indigenous tribes today make when fighting corporate land grabs:

"The Undertakers have alwaies vilified the fens, 
and have misinformed many Parliament men, that 
all the fens is a meer quagmire, and that it is a 
level hurtfully surrounded and of little or no 
value: but those who live in the fens and are 
neighbours to it, know the contrary."

The anonymous author goes on to list the benefits 
of the fens including: the "serviceable horses", 
the "great dayeries which afford great store of 
butter and cheese", the flocks of sheep, the 
"osier, reed and sedge", and the "many thousand 
cottagers which live on our fens which must 
otherwise go a begging." And he continues by 
comparing these to the biofuels that the 
developers proposed to plant on the newly drained land:

"What is coleseed and rape, they are but Dutch 
commodities, and but trash and trumpery and pills 
land, in respect of the fore-recited commodities 
which are the rich oare of the Commonwealth."30

The commoners fought back by rioting, by 
levelling the dikes, and by taking the engineers 
to court. Their lawsuits were paid for "out of a 
common purse to which each villager contributed 
according to the size of the holding", though 
Charles I attempted to prevent them levying money 
for this purpose, and to prosecute the 
ringleaders. However, Charles' days were 
numbered, and when civil war broke out in the 
1640s, the engineering project was shelved, and 
the commoners reclaimed all the fen from the 
developers. In 1642 Sir Anthony Thomas was driven 
out of East and West Fens and the Earl of Lyndsey 
was ejected from Lyndsey Level. In 1645 all the 
drainers' banks in Axholme were destroyed. And 
between 1642 and 1649 the Crown's share of 
fenland in numerous parishes was seized by the 
inhabitants, and returned to common.

Just over a century later, from 1760, the 
drainers struck again, and this time they were 
more successful. There was still resistance in 
the form of pamphlets, riots, rick-burning etc. 
But the high price of corn worked in favour of 
those who wanted to turn land over to arable. And 
there was less solidarity amongst commoners, 
because, according to Joan Thirsk, wealthy 
commoners who could afford to keep more animals 
over winter (presumably because of agricultural 
improvements) were overstocking the commons:

"The seemingly equitable system of sharing the 
commons among all commoners was proving far from 
equitable in practice . . . Mounting discontent 
with the existing unfair distribution of common 
rights weakened the opponents of drainage and strengthened its supporters."

Between 1760 and 1840 most of the fens were 
drained and enclosed by act of parliament. The 
project was not an instant success. As the land 
dried out it shrunk and lowered against the water 
table, and so became more vulnerable to flooding. 
Pumping stations had to be introduced, powered 
initially and unsuccessfully by windmills, then 
by steam engines, and now the entire area is kept 
dry thanks to diesel. Since drainage eventually 
created one of the most productive areas of 
arable farmland in Britain, it would be hard to 
argue that it was not an economic improvement; 
but the social and environmental consequences 
have been less happy. Much of the newly 
cultivated land lay at some distance from the 
villages and was taken over by large landowners; 
it was not unusual to find a 300 acre holding 
without a single labourers' cottage on it. 
Farmers therefore developed the gang-labour 
system of employment that exists to this day:

"The long walk to and from work . . . the rough 
conditions of labour out of doors in all 
weathers, the absence of shelter for eating, the 
absence of privacy for performing natural 
functions and the neglect of childrens' 
schooling, combined to bring up an unhappy, 
uncouth and demoralized generation."

The 1867 Gangs Act was introduced to prohibit the 
worst abuses; yet in 2004, when the Gangmasters 
Licensing Act was passed (in the wake of the 
Morecambe Bay cockle pickers tragedy), the 
government was still legislating against the 
evils of this system of employment. But even if 
large landowners were the main beneficiaries, 
many of the fenland smallholders managed to exact 
some compensation for the loss of their commons, 
and what they salvaged was productive land. The 
smallholder economy that characterized the area 
in medieval times survived, so that in 1870, and 
again in 1937, more than half of the agricultural 
holdings were less than 20 acres. In the 1930s 
the "quaint distribution of land among a 
multitude of small owners, contrary to 
expectations, had helped to mitigate the effects of the depression."
Scottish Clearances

By the end of the 18th century the incentive to 
convert tilled land in England over to pasture 
was dying away. There were a number of reasons 
for this. Firstly, the population was beginning 
to rise rapidly as people were displaced from the 
land and ushered into factory work in towns, and 
so more land was required for producing food. 
Secondly, cotton imported from the US and India, 
was beginning to replace English wool. And 
thirdly, Scotland had been united with England 
and its extensive pastures lay ready to be "devowered by shepe".

The fact that these lands were populated by 
Highland clansmen presented no obstacle. In a 
process that has become known as the Clearances, 
thousands of Highlanders were evicted from their 
holdings and shipped off to Canada, or carted off 
to Glasgow to make way for Cheviot sheep. Others 
were concentrated on the West coast to work 
picking kelp seaweed, then necessary for the soap 
and glass industry, and were later to form the 
nucleus of the crofting community. Some cottagers 
were literally burnt out of house and home by the 
agents of the Lairds. This is from the account of 
Betsy Mackay, who was sixteen when she was 
evicted from the Duke of Sutherland's estates:

"Our family was very reluctant to leave and 
stayed for some time, but the burning party came 
round and set fire to our house at both ends, 
reducing to ashes whatever remained within the 
walls. The people had to escape for their lives, 
some of them losing all their clothes except what 
they had on their back. The people were told they 
could go where they liked, provided they did not 
encumber the land that was by rights their own. 
The people were driven away like dogs."31

The clearances were so thorough that few people 
were even left to remember, and the entire 
process was suppressed from collective memory, 
until its history was retold, first by John 
Prebble in The Highland Clearances, and 
subsequently by James Hunter in The Making of the 
Crofting Community. When Prebble's book appeared, 
the Historiographer Royal for Scotland Professor Gordon Donaldson commented:

"I am sixty-eight now and until recently had 
hardly heard of the Highland Clearances. The 
thing has been blown out of proportion."32

But how else can one explain the underpopulation 
of the Highlands? The region's fate was 
poignantly described by Canadian Hugh Maclennan 
in an essay called "Scotchman's Return":

"The Highland emptiness only a few hundred miles 
above the massed population of England is a far 
different thing from the emptiness of our North 
West territories. Above the 60th parallel in 
Canada, you feel that nobody but God had ever 
been there before you. But in a deserted Highland 
glen, you feel that everyone who ever mattered is dead and gone."33
Parliamentary Enclosures

The final and most contentious wave of land 
enclosures in England occurred between about 1750 
and 1850. Whereas the purpose of most previous 
enclosures had been to turn productive arable 
land into less productive (though more privately 
lucrative) sheep pasture, the colonization of 
Scotland for wool, and India and the Southern US 
states for cotton now prompted the advocates of 
enclosure to play a different set of cards: their 
aim was to turn open fields, pastures and 
wastelands — everything in fact — into more 
productive arable and mixed farm land. Their 
byword was "improvement". Their express aim was 
to increase efficiency and production and so both 
create and feed an increasingly large proletariat 
who would work either as wage labourers in the 
improved fields, or as machine minders in the factories.

There is, unfortunately, no book that takes for 
its sole focus of study the huge number of 
pamphlets, reports and diatribes — often with 
stirring titles like Inclosure thrown Open or 
Crying Sin of England in not Caring for the Poor 
— which were published by both supporters and 
critics of enclosure in the 17th, 18th and early 19th centuries.34

The main arguments of those in favour of enclosure were:
(i) that the open field system prevented 
"improvement", for example the introduction of 
clover, turnips and four course rotations, 
because individuals could not innovate;
(ii) that the waste lands and common pastures 
were "bare-worn" or full of scrub, and overstocked with half-starved beasts;
(iii) that those who survived on the commons were 
(a) lazy and (b) impoverished (in other words 
"not inclined to work for wages"), and that 
enclosure of the commons would force them into employment.

The main arguments of those against enclosure were:
(i) that the common pastures and waste lands were 
the mainstay of the independent poor; when they 
were overgrazed, that was often as a result of 
overstocking by the wealthiest commoners who were 
the people agitating for enclosure
(ii) that enclosure would engross already wealthy 
landowners, force poor people off the land and 
into urban slums, and result in depopulation.

The question of agricultural improvement has been 
exhaustively assessed with the benefit of 
hindsight, and this account will come back to it 
later. At the time the propaganda in favour of 
enclosure benefited considerably from state 
support. The loudest voice in support of 
improvement, former farmer Arthur Young (a 
classic example of the adage that those who can, 
do — those who can't become consultants) was made 
the first Secretary of Prime Minister William 
Pitt's new Board of Agriculture, which set about 
publishing, in 1793, a series of General Views on 
the Agriculture of all the shires of England. The 
Board "was not a Government department, like its 
modern namesake, but an association of gentlemen, 
chiefly landowners, for the advancement of 
agriculture, who received a grant from the 
government." Tate observes: "The ninety odd 
volumes are almost monotonous in their 
reiteration of the point that agricultural 
improvement has come through enclosure and that 
more enclosure must take place."35

Whilst the view that enclosure hastened 
improvement may well have been broadly correct, 
it is nonetheless fair to call these reports 
state propaganda. When Arthur Young changed his 
opinion, in 1801, and presented a report to the 
Board's Committee showing that enclosure had 
actually caused severe poverty in numerous 
villages, the committee (after sitting on the 
report for a month) "told me I might do what I 
pleased with it for myself, but not print it as a 
work for the Board. . . probably it will be 
printed without effect."36 Young was not the only 
advocate of enclosure to change his mind: John 
Howlett was another prominent advocate of 
enclosure who crossed the floor after seeing the misery it caused.

Between 1760 and 1870, about 7 million acres 
(about one sixth the area of England) were 
changed, by some 4,000 acts of parliament, from 
common land to enclosed land.37 However necessary 
this process might or might not have been for the 
improvement of the agricultural economy, it was 
downright theft. Millions of people had customary 
and legal access to lands and the basis of an 
independent livelihood was snatched away from 
them through what to them must have resembled a 
Kafkaesque tribunal carried out by members of the 
Hellfire Club. If you think this must be a 
colourful exaggeration, then read J L and Barbara 
Hammonds' accounts of Viscount "Bully" 
Bolingbroke's attempt to enclose Kings' Sedgmoor 
to pay off his gambling debts: "Bully," wrote the 
chairman of the committee assessing the proposal, 
"has a scheme of enclosure which if it succeeds, 
I am told will free him of all his difficulties"; 
or of the Spencer/Churchill's proposal, in the 
face of repeated popular opposition, to enclose 
the common at Abingdon (see box p 26).38 And if 
you suspect that the Hammond's accounts may be 
extreme examples (right wing historians are 
rather sniffy about the Hammonds)39 then look at 
the map provided by Tate showing the constituency 
of MPs who turned up to debate enclosure bills 
for Oxfordshire when they came up in parliament. 
There was no requirement, in the parliament of 
the day, to declare a "conflict of interest".

Out of 796 instances of MPs turning up for any of 
the Oxfordshire bills, 514 were Oxfordshire MPs, 
most of whom would have been landowners.40
To make a modern analogy, it was as if Berkeley 
Homes, had put in an application to build housing 
all over your local country park, and when you 
went along to the planning meeting to object, the 
committee consisted entirely of directors of 
Berkeley, Barretts and Bovis — and there was no 
right of appeal. However, in contrast to the 
modern rambler, the commoners lost not only their 
open space and their natural environment (the 
poems of John Clare remind us how significant 
that loss was); they also lost one of their 
principal means of making a living. The 
"democracy" of late 18th and early 19th century 
English parliament, at least on this issue, 
proved itself to be less answerable to the needs 
of the common man than the dictatorships of the 
Tudors and Stuarts. Kings are a bit more detached 
from local issues than landowners, and, with this 
in mind, it may not seem so surprising that 
popular resistance should often appeal to the 
King for justice. (A similar recourse can be seen 
in recent protests by Chinese peasants, who 
appeal to the upper echelons of the Communist 
Party for protection against the expropriation of 
collective land by corrupt local officials).
Allotments and Smallholdings

Arthur Young's 1801 report was called An Inquiry 
into the Propriety of Applying Wastes to the 
Maintenance and Support of the Poor. Young, 
Howlett, David Davies, and indeed most of those 
who were concerned for the future welfare of the 
dispossessed (whether or not they approved of 
enclosure), argued that those who lost commons 
rights should be compensated with small enclosures of their own.

The losers in the process of enclosure were of 
two kinds. First there were the landless, or 
nearly so, who had no ownership rights over the 
commons, but who gained a living from commons 
that were open access, or where a measure of 
informal use was tolerated. These people had few 
rights, appeared on no records, and received 
nothing in compensation for the livelihood they 
lost. But there was also a class of smallholders 
who did have legal rights, and hence were 
entitled to compensation. However, the amount of 
land they were allocated "was often so small, 
though in strict legal proportion to the amount 
of their claim, that it was of little use and 
speedily sold." Moreover, the considerable legal, 
surveying, hedging and fencing costs of enclosure 
were disproportionate for smaller holdings. And 
on top of that, under the "Speenhamland" system 
of poor relief, the taxes of the small landowner 
who worked his own land, went to subsidize the 
labour costs of the large farmers who employed 
the landless, adding to the pressure to sell up to aggrandizing landowners.41

Since it was generally acknowledged that a rural 
labourer's wages could not support his family, 
which therefore had to be supported by the poor 
rates, there were good arguments on all sides for 
providing the dispossessed with sufficient land 
to keep a cow and tend a garden. The land was 
available. It would have made very little 
impression upon the final settlement of most 
enclosure acts if areas of wasteland had been 
sectioned off and distributed as secure 
decent-sized allotments to those who had lost 
their common rights. In a number of cases where 
this happened (for example in the village of 
Dilhorn, or on Lord Winchelsea's estates), it was 
found that cottagers hardly ever needed to apply 
for poor relief. Moreover, it had been shown (by 
research conducted by the Society for Bettering 
the Condition of the Poor and the Labourer's 
Friends Society) that smallholdings cultivated by 
spade could be more productive than large farms cultivated by the plough.42

In the face of such a strong case for the 
provision of smallholdings, it took a political 
economist to come up with reasons for not 
providing them. Burke, Bentham and a host of 
lesser names, all of them fresh from reading Adam 
Smith's Wealth of Nations, advised Pitt and 
subsequent prime ministers that there was no way 
in which the government could help the poor, or 
anybody else, except by increasing the nation's 
capital (or as we now say, its GDP). No kind of 
intervention on behalf of the landless poor 
should be allowed to disturb the "invisible hand" 
of economic self interest — even though the hand 
that had made them landless in the first place 
was by no means invisible, and was more like an 
iron fist. At the turn of the century, the 
Reverend Thomas Malthus waded in with his 
argument that helping the poor was a waste of 
time since it only served to increase the birth 
rate — a view which was lapped up by those 
Christians who had all along secretly believed 
that the rich should inherit the earth.

Ricardo's theory of rent was also pulled in to 
bolster the arguments against providing 
allotments. A common justification for enclosure 
and attraction for landowners had always been 
that rents rose — doubled very often — after 
enclosure. This was blithely attributed to 
improvement of the land, as though there could be 
no other cause. Few gave much thought to the 
possibility that an increase in rent would result 
from getting rid of encumbrances, such as 
commoners and their common rights (in much the 
same way, that nowadays, a property increases in 
value if sitting tenants can be persuaded to 
leave, or an agricultural tie is removed). Rent 
may show up on the GDP, but is an unreliable 
indicator of productivity, as contemporary writer 
Richard Bacon pointed out when he gave this 
explanation (paraphrased here by Brian Inglis) 
why landowners and economists were opposed to allotments:

"Suppose for argument's sake, 20 five-acre farms, 
cultivated by spade husbandry, together were more 
productive than a single 100-acre farm using 
machinery. This did not mean that the landowners 
would get more rent from them — far from it. As 
each 5 acre farm might support a farmer and his 
family, the surplus available for tenants to pay 
in rent would be small. The single tenant farmer, 
hiring labourers when he needed them, might have 
a lower yield, from his hundred acres, but he 
would have a larger net profit — and it was from 
net profit that rent was derived. That was why 
landlords preferred consolidation."43

Richard Bacon deserves applause for explaining 
very clearly why capitalism prefers big farms and 
forces people off the land. It is also worth 
noting that the increased rent after enclosure 
had to be subsidized by the poor rates — the 
taxes which landowners had to pay to support the 
poor who were forced into workhouses.
Corn Laws, Cotton and County Farms

In 1846, after a fierce debate, the tariffs on 
imported corn which helped maintain the price of 
British grown wheat were repealed. The widespread 
refusal to provide land for the dispossessed, and 
the emergence of an urban proletariat who didn't 
have the option of growing their own food, made 
it possible for proponents of the free market to 
paint their campaign for the repeal of the Corn 
Laws as a humanitarian gesture. Cheap bread from 
cheap imported corn was of interest to the 
economists and industrialists because it made 
wages cheaper; at the same time it was of benefit 
to the hungry landless poor (provided wages 
didn't decline correspondingly, which Malthus 
claimed was what would happen). The combined 
influence of all these forces was enough to get 
tariffs removed from imported corn and open up 
the UK market to the virgin lands of the New World.

The founders of the Anti Corn Law association 
were John Bright, a Manchester MP and son of a 
cotton mill owner, and Richard Cobden, MP for 
Stockport and subsequently Rochdale. Their main 
interest was in cheap corn in order to keep the 
price of factory labour down, (Bright was opposed 
to factory legislation and trade union rights); 
but their most powerful argument was that only a 
handful of landowners benefited from high prices. 
It was in a belated attempt to prove the contrary 
that in 1862 Lord Derby persuaded parliament to 
commission a land registry; but the publication 
in 1872 of the Return of Owners of Land, 
confirmed that Bright and Cobden were broadly 
right: 0.6 per cent of the population owned 98.5 
per cent of the agricultural land.44

Had the labourers of Britain been rural 
smallholders, rather than city slumdwellers, then 
a high price for corn, and hence for agricultural 
products in general, might have been more in 
their interest, and it is less likely that the 
corn laws would have been repealed. If England 
had kept its peasantry (as most other European 
countries did) there would have been fewer 
landless labourers and abandoned children, wages 
for factory workers might have been higher, and 
the English cotton industry might not have been 
so well poised to undercut and then destroy 
thousands of local industries around the world 
which produced textiles of astonishing 
craftsmanship and beauty. By 1912 Britain, which 
couldn't even grow cotton, was exporting nearly 
seven billion yards of cotton cloth each year — 
enough to provide a suit of clothes for every man 
woman and child alive in the world at the time.45 
Globalization was a dominant force by the end of the 19th century.

Ironically, it was the same breed of political 
economists who had previously advocated 
improvement that was now arguing for grain 
imports which would make these improvements 
utterly pointless. The repeal had a delayed 
effect because it was not until after the 
construction of the trans-continental American 
railways, in the 1870s, that cereals grown on 
low-rent land confiscated from native Americans 
could successfully undermine UK farming. By the 
1880s the grain was also being imported in the 
form of thousands of tonnes of refrigerated beef 
which undercut home produced meat. There were 
even, until the late 1990s, cheaper transport 
rates within the UK for imported food than for 
home-grown food.46 The lucky farm workers who 
emigrated to the New World were writing back to 
their friends and family in words such as these:

"There is no difficulty of a man getting land 
here. Many will let a man have land with a few 
acres improvement and a house on it without any deposit"

"I am going to work on my own farm of 50 acres, 
which I bought at £55 and I have 5 years to pay 
it in. I have bought me a cow and 5 pigs. If I 
had stayed at Corsley I should ever have had nothing."47

Unable to compete with such low rents, England's 
agricultural economy went into a decline from 
which it never properly recovered. Conditions of 
life for the remaining landless agricultural 
workers deteriorated even further, while demand 
for factory workers in the cities was not 
expanding as it had done in the early 19th 
century. Of the 320,000 acres enclosed between 
1845 and 1869, just 2,000 had been allocated for 
the benefit of labourers and cottagers.48

It was in this context that the call for 
smallholdings and allotments was revived. "Three 
Acres and A Cow" was the catch phrase coined by 
liberal MP Jesse Collings, whose programme is 
outlined in his book Land Reform. In 1913 the 
parliamentary Land Enquiry Committee issued its 
report The Land (no relation) which included 
copious first hand evidence of the demand for and 
the benefits of smallholdings. Both books focused 
on the enclosure of commons as the prime source 
of the problem.49 A series of parliamentary 
statutes, from the 1887 Allotments Act, the 1892 
Smallholding Act, and the 1908 Smallholding and 
Allotments Act provided local authorities with 
the power to acquire the land which now still 
exists in the form of numerous municipal 
allotments and the County Smallholdings Estate.

The County Smallholdings, in particular, came 
under attack when a second wave of free market 
ideologues came into power in the 1980s and 
1990s. The Conservative Party's 1995 Rural White 
Paper advocated selling off the County Farms, and 
since then about a third of the estate has been 
sold, though there are signs that the number of sales is declining.50
The End of Enclosure

The enclosure movement was brought to an end when 
it started to upset the middle classes. By the 
1860s, influential city-dwellers noticed that 
areas for recreation were getting thin on the 
ground. In the annual enclosure bills for 1869, 
out of 6,916 acres of land scheduled for 
enclosure, just three acres were allocated for 
recreation, and six acres for allotments.51 A 
protection society was formed, the Commons 
Preservation Society, headed by Lord Eversley, 
which later went on to become the Open Spaces 
Society, and also spawned the National Trust. The 
Society was not afraid to support direct action 
tactics, such as the levelling of fences, and 
used them successfully, in the case of Epping 
Forest and Berkhampstead Common, to initiate 
court cases which drew attention to their 
cause.52 Within a few years the Society had 
strong support in parliament, and the 1876 
Commons Act ruled that enclosure should only take 
place if there was some public benefit.

In any case, in the agricultural depression that 
by 1875 was well established, improvement was no 
longer a priority, and in the last 25 years of 
the 19th century only a handful of parliamentary 
enclosures took place. Since then, the greatest 
loss of commons has probably been as a result of 
failure to register under the 1965 Commons Registration Act.

In some case commons went on being used as such 
wellafter they had been legally enclosed, because 
in the agricultural slump of the late 19th 
century, landowners could see no profit in 
improvement. George Bourne describes how in his 
Surrey village, although the common had been 
enclosed in 1861, the local landless were able to 
continue using it informally until the early 
years of the 20th century. What eventually kicked 
them out was not agricultural improvement, but 
suburban development — but that is another story. Bourne comments:

"To the enclosure of the common more than to any 
other cause may be traced all the changes that 
have subsequently passed over the village. It was 
like knocking the keystone out of an arch. The 
keystone is not the arch; but once it is gone all 
sorts of forces previously resisted, begin to operate towards ruin."53
The Verdict of Modern Historians

The standard interpretation of enclosure, at 
least 18th-19th century enclosure, is that it was 
"a necessary evil, and there would have been less 
harm in it if the increased dividend of the 
agricultural world had been fairly 
distributed."54 Nearly all assessments are some 
kind of variation on this theme, with weight 
placed either upon the need for "agricultural 
improvement" or upon the social harm according to 
the ideological disposition of the writer. There 
is no defender of the commons who argues that 
enclosure did not provide, or at least hasten, 
some improvements in agriculture (the Hammonds 
ignore the issue and focus on the injustices); 
and there is no supporter of enclosure who does 
not concede that the process could have been carried out more equitably.

Opinion has shifted significantly in one or two 
respects. The classic agricultural writers of the 
1920s, such as Lord Ernle, considered that 
agricultural improvements — the so-called 
agricultural revolution — had been developed by 
large-scale progressive farmers in the late 1800s 
and that enclosure was an indispensable element 
in allowing these innovators to come to the 
fore.47 In the last 30 years a number of 
historians have shown that innovation was 
occurring throughout the preceding centuries, and 
that it was by no means impossible, or even 
unusual, for four course rotations, and new crops 
to be introduced into the open field system. In 
Hunmanby in Yorkshire a six year system with a 
two year ley was introduced. At Barrowby, Lincs, 
in 1697 the commoners agreed to pool their common 
pastures and their open fields, both of which had 
become tired, and manage them on a twelve year 
cycle of four years arable and eight years ley. 55

Of course it might well take longer for a 
state-of-the-art farmer to persuade a majority of 
members of a common field system to switch over 
to experimental techniques, than it would to 
strike out on his own. One can understand an 
individual's frustration, but from the 
community's point of view, why the hurry? 
Overhasty introduction of technical improvements 
often leads to social disruption. In any case, if 
we compare the very minimal agricultural 
extension services provided for the improvement 
of open field agriculture to the loud voices in 
favour of enclosure, it is hard not to conclude 
that "improvement" served partly as a Trojan 
horse for those whose main interest was consolidation and engrossment of land.
A main area of contention has been the extent to 
which enclosure was directly responsible for 
rural depopulation and the decline of small 
farmers. A number of commentators (eg Gonner, 
Chambers and Minguay) have argued that these 
processes were happening anyway and often cannot 
be directly linked to enclosure. More recently 
Neeson has shown that in Northants, the 
disappearance of smallholders was directly linked 
to enclosure, and she has suggested that the 
smaller kinds of commoner, particularly landless 
and part-time farmers, were being defined out of the equation.56

But these disputes, like many others thrown up by 
the fact that every commons was different, miss 
the bigger picture. The fact is that England and 
Wales' rural population dived from 65 per cent of 
the population in 1801 to 23 per cent in 1901; 
while in France 59 per cent of the population 
remained rural in 1901, and even in 1982, 31 per 
cent were country dwellers. Between 1851 and 1901 
England and Wales' rural population declined by 
1.4 million, while total population rose by 14.5 
million and the urban population nearly 
tripled.57 By 1935, there was one worker for 
every 12 hectares in the UK, compared to one 
worker for every 4.5 hectares in France, and one 
for every 3.4 hectares across the whole of Europe.58

Britain set out, more or less deliberately, to 
become a highly urbanized economy with a large 
urban proletariat dispossessed from the 
countryside, highly concentrated landownership, 
and farms far larger than any other country in 
Europe. Enclosure of the commons, more advanced 
in the UK than anywhere else in Europe, was not 
the only means of achieving this goal: free trade 
and the importing of food and fibre from the New 
World and the colonies played a part, and so did 
the English preference for primogeniture 
(bequeathing all your land to your eldest son). 
But enclosure of common land played a key role in 
Britain's industrialization, and was consciously 
seen to do so by its protagonists at the time.

The Tragedy

The above account of the enclosure of the English 
commons is given for its own sake; but also 
because the management of English common pasture 
is the starting point of Hardin's thesis, so it 
is against the tapestry of English commons rights 
and the tortuous process of their enclosure that 
Hardin's formulaic tragedy may initially be judged.

Hardin's theory springs from the observation that 
common pastures allowed individuals to benefit 
from overstocking at the community's expense, and 
therefore were inherently prone to ecological 
exhaustion and ultimately "ruin". Without doubt 
there were common pastures which matched the 
description given by William Lloyd, as amplified 
by Hardin. But the salient fact that emerges from 
the copious historical studies that have been 
compiled from local field orders, land tax 
returns, enclosure awards and so on, is that 18th 
century commons and common pastures were about as 
different, one from another, as farms are today. 
Many were managed according to very detailed 
rules set by the local manorial court regulating 
stocking levels (or "stints"), manuring, disease 
control and so forth; but these rules varied 
considerably from one village to another. In some 
places they were found to be more necessary, or 
were more scrupulously observed than they were in others.

There were indeed "unstinted" commons where there 
was little control upon the number of animals, 
though this did not invariably result in 
impoverishment (see box p26); and there were 
others where stints were not applied properly, or 
commoners took advantage of lax or corrupt 
management to place as many animals on the common 
as they could at the common expense. Where there 
was overstocking, according to Gonner, this was 
"largely to the advantage of rich commoners or 
the Lord of the manor, who got together large 
flocks and herds and pastured them in the common 
lands to the detriment of the poorer commoners . 
. . The rich crowded their beasts on, and 
literally eat out the poor." Time and again 
historians on both sides of the ideological 
divide come up with instances where overstocking 
was carried out by one or two wealthy farmers at 
the expense of the poorer commoners, who could 
not overstock, even if they wanted to, because 
they had not the means to keep large numbers of 
animals over winter.59 Even advocates of 
enclosure conceded that it was the wealthy 
farmers who were causing the problems, as when Fitzherbert observed:

"Every cottage shall have his porcyon [portion, 
ie plot of land] assigned to him according to his 
rent, and then shall not the riche man oppress 
the poore man with his catell, and every man 
shall eate his owne close at his pleasure."60

This comes as no great surprise, but the presence 
of powerful interest groups, possibly in a 
position to pervert the management regime, 
suggests a different scenario from that given by 
Hardin of "rational herdsmen" each seeking to 
maximise their individual gain. Hardin's 
construct is like the Chinese game of go where 
each counter has the same value; real life is 
more like chess, where a knight or a bishop can outclass a pawn.
Perhaps there were instances where a profusion of 
unregulated, "rational" yet unco-operative 
paupers overburdened the commons with an 
ever-increasing population of half-starved 
animals, in line with Lloyd's scenario. But even 
when there are reports from observers to this 
effect we have to be careful, for one man's puny 
and stunted beast is another man's hardy breed. 
Stunting is another way of stinting. Lloyd was 
writing at a time when stockbreeders were 
obsessed with producing prize specimens that to 
our modern eye appear grotesquely obese. In 1800, 
the celebrated Durham Ox, weighing nearly 3000 
pounds, made a triumphal tour of Britain, and two 
years later about 2,000 people paid half a guinea 
for an engraving of the same beast.61 To these 
connoisseurs of fatstock, the commoners' house 
cow must have appeared as skeletal as do the zebu 
cattle of India and Africa in comparison to our 
Belgian Blues and cloned Holsteins. Yet the zebus 
provide a livelihood for hundreds of millions of 
third world farmers, are well adapted to 
producing milk, offspring, dung and traction from 
sparse and erratic dryland pastures and poor 
quality crop residues, and in terms of energy and 
protein are more efficient at doing so.

Much the same may have been true of the 
commoners' cows. According to J M Neeson a poor 
cow providing a gallon of milk per day in season 
brought in half the equivalent of a labourer's 
annual wage. Geese at Otmoor could bring in the 
equivalent of a full time wage (see box p26). 
Commoners sheep were smaller, but hardier, easier 
to lamb and with higher quality wool, just like 
present day Shetlands, which are described by 
their breed society as "primitive and 
unimproved". An acre of gorse — derided as 
worthless scrub by advocates of improved pasture 
— was worth 45s 6d as fuel for bakers or lime 
kilns at a time when labourers' wages were a 
shilling a day.62 On top of that, the scrub or 
marsh yielded innumerable other goods, including 
reed for thatch, rushes for light, firewood, 
peat, sand, plastering material, herbs, 
medicines, nuts, berries, an adventure playground 
for kids and more besides. No wonder the 
commoners were "idle" and unwilling to take on 
paid employment. "Those who are so eager for the 
new inclosure," William Cobbett wrote,

"seem to argue as if the wasteland in its present 
state produced nothing at all. But is this the 
fact? Can anyone point out a single inch of it 
which does not produce something and the produce 
of which is made use of? It goes to the feeding 
of sheep, of cows of all descriptions . . . and 
it helps to rear, in health and vigour, numerous 
families of the children of the labourers, which 
children, were it not for these wastes, must be 
crammed into the stinking suburbs of towns?"63

While the dynamic identified by Lloyd clearly 
exists and may sometimes dominate, it represents 
just one factor of many in a social system 
founded on access to common property. Hardin's 
Tragedy bears very little relationship to the 
management of open fields, to the making of hay 
from the meadows, or to various other common 
rights such as gleaning, none of which are 
vulnerable to the dynamic of competitive 
overstocking. The only aspect of the entire 
common land system where the tragedy has any 
relevance at all is in the management of pasture 
and wasteland; and here it is acknowledged by 
almost all historians that commons managers were 
only too aware of the problem, and had plenty of 
mechanisms for dealing with it, even if they 
didn't always put them into force. The instances 
in which unstinted access to common pastures led 
to overstocking no doubt played a role in 
hastening eventual enclosure. But to attribute 
the disappearance of the English commons to the 
"remorseless workings" of a trite formula is a 
travesty of historical interpretation, carried 
out by a theorist with a pet idea, who knew 
little about the subject he was writing about.

Private Interest and Common Sense

Any well-structured economy will allocate 
resources communally or privately according to 
the different functions they perform. The main 
advantage of common ownership is equity, 
particularly in respect of activities where there 
are economies of scale; the main advantage of 
private ownership is freedom, since the use of 
goods can be more directly tailored to the needs of the individual.

The open field system of agriculture, which until 
recently was the dominant arable farming system 
throughout much of Europe, provided each family 
with its own plot of land, within a communally 
managed ecosystem. In villages where dairy was 
prominent, management could shift back and forth 
between individual and communal several times 
throughout the course of the day. The system 
described below was outlined by Daniel Defoe in 
his observations on the Somerset town of 
Cheddar4, but elements of it can be found throughout Europe.

PRIVATE In such a system cows are owned and 
lodged by individual families, who milk them in 
the morning, and provide whatever medicinal care 
they see fit. There are no economies of scale to 
be derived from milking centrally, and the milk 
is accessible to consumers, fresh from the udder, 
providing a substantial economy of distribution. 
Each family also gets its share of the manure.
PUBLIC At an appointed time in the morning, a 
communally appointed cowherd passes through the 
village and the cows file out to make their way 
to the common pasture. There are clear economies 
of scale to be gained from grazing all the cows together.
PRIVATE In the evening the herd returns and cows 
peel off one by one to their individual sheds, 
where they are again milked. Their owners can 
calibrate the amount of extra feed cows are given 
to the amount of milk they require.
PUBLIC Milk surplus to domestic requirements is 
taken to the creamery and made into cheese, 
another process which benefits from economies of scale.
PRIVATE At Cheddar, families were paid with 
entire cheeses, weighing a hundredweight or more, 
which they could consume or market as they saw 
fit. Unfortunately Defoe does not tell us what 
happens to the whey from the creamery, which presumably was given to pigs.
This elegant system paid scant allegiance to 
ideology — it evolved from the dialogue between 
private interest and common sense.

Otmoor Forever

Otmoor Common near Oxford, a wetland that some 
viewed as a "a dreary waste", was a "public 
common without stint . . . from remote antiquity" 
— in other words local people could put as many 
livestock as they wanted on it. Even so, summer 
grazing there for a cow was estimated to be worth 
20 shillings; and a contemporary observer 
reported a cottager could sometimes clear £20 a 
year from running geese there — more than the 
seven shillings a week they might expect as a 
labourer. On the other hand, an advocate of 
enclosure, writing in the local paper, claimed of the commoners :

"In looking after a brood of goslings, a few 
rotten sheep, a skeleton of a cow or a mangy 
horse, they lost more than they might have gained 
by their day's work, and acquired habits of 
idleness and dissipation, and a dislike to honest 
labour, which has rendered them the riotous and 
lawless set of men that they have now shown themselves to be."

The "riotousness" is a reference to the 
resistance put up by the commoners to the theft 
of their land. The first proposal to drain and 
enclose the land in 1801, by the 
Spencer/Churchill family, was staved off by armed 
mobs who appeared everytime the authorities tried 
to pin up enclosure notices. A second attempt in 
1814 was again met with "large mobs armed with 
every description of offensive weapon".

The enclosure and drainage was eventually forced 
through over the next few year, but it failed to 
result in any immediate agricultural benefit. A 
writer in another local paper judged: "instead of 
expected improvement in the quality of the soil, 
it had been rendered almost totaly worthless . . 
. few crops yielding any more than barely 
sufficient to pay for labour and seed."

In 1830, 22 farmers were acquitted of destroying 
embankments associated with the drainage works, 
and a few weeks later, heartened by this result, 
a mob gathered and perambulated the entire 
commons pulling down all the fences. Lord 
Churchill arrived with a troop of yeomen, 
arrested 44 of the rioters and took them off to Oxford gaol in a paddy wagon.

"Now it happened to be the day of St Giles' fair, 
and the street of St Giles along which the 
yeomanry brought their prisoners, was crowded. 
The men in the wagons raised the cry 'Otmoor 
forever', the crowd took it up, and attacked the 
yeomen with great violence, hurling brickbats, 
stones and sticks at them from every side . . . and all 44 prisoners escaped."

Two years later Lord Melbourne observed: "All the 
towns in the neighbourhood of Otmoor are more or 
less infected with the feelings of the most 
violent, and cannot at all be depended upon." 
And, tellingly, magistrates in Oxford who had 
requested troops to suppress the outrages warned: 
"Any force which the Government may send down 
should not remain for a length of time together, 
but that to avoid the possibilty of an undue 
connexion between the people and the Military, a 
succession of troops should be observed."

1. Kevin Cahill, Who Owns Britain, Canongate, 2001.
2. E P Thompson, Customs in Common, Penguin, 1993, p114.
3. Garrett Hardin, "The Tragedy of the Commons", 
Science, 13 December, 1968, pp1243-1248.
4. Daniel Defoe, A Tour Through England and Wales, Everyman, Vol 1, pp 277-8.
5. William F Lloyd, Two Lectures in the Checks to 
Population, Oxford University Press, 1833.
6. Eg, E A Loayza, A Strategy for Fisheries 
Development, World Bank Discussion Paper 135, 1992.
7. E P Thompson, Customs in Common, Penguin, 1993, p107.
8. Arthur McEvoy, "Towards and Interactive Theory 
of Nature and Culture, Environmental Review, 11, 1987, p 299.
9. Garrett Hardin, "The Tragedy of the 
'Unmanaged' Commons", in R V Andelson, Commons 
Without Tragedy, Shepheard Walwyn, 1991.
10. The prospect of imminent enclosure provided 
wealthy commoners with a number of incentives for 
overstocking common pastures. See: JM Neeson, 
Commoners: Common Right, Enclosure and Social 
Change in England, 1700-1820, Cambridge, 1993, 
p156; and W H R Curtier, The Enclosure and 
Redistribution of Our Land, Elibron 2005 (Oxford 1920), p242.
11. CS and C S Orwin's The Open Fields, Oxford, 
1938 is perhaps the most useful study of this 
system, not least because the Orwin's were 
farmers as well as academics.. See also J V 
Beckett, A History of Laxton: England's Last Open 
Fioeld Village, Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1989.
12. Joan Thirsk, "The Common Fields", Past and Present, 29, 1964.
13 J-C Asselain, Histoire Economique de la 
France, du 18th Siècle à nos Jours. 1. De 
l"Ancien Régime à la Première Guerre Mondiale, Editions du Seuil. 1984
14. Paul Stirling, "The Domestic Cycle and the 
Distribution of Power in Turkish Villages" in 
Julian Pitt-Rivers (Ed.) Mediterranean 
Countrymen, The Hague, Mouton: 1963; Hans U. 
Spiess, Report on Draught Animals under Drought 
Fonditions in Central, Eastern and Southern zones 
of Region 1 (Tigray), United Nations Development 
ProgrammeEmergencies Unit for Ethiopia, 1994,
15. In 1381, the St Albans contingent, led by 
William Grindcobbe accused the Abbot of St Albans 
of (among other abuses) enclosing common land. 
Jesse Collings, Land Reform,: Occupying 
Ownership, Peasant Proprietary and Rural 
Education, Longmans Green and Co, p 120; and on Cade p138.
16. W E Tate, The English Village Community and 
the Enclosure Movements, Gollancz,1967, 
pp122-125;W H R Curteis, op cit 10, p132.
17. Ibid.
18. Thomas More, Utopia, Everyman, 1994.
19. Tate, op cit 17, pp 124-127.
20. William Everard et al, The True Levellers' Standard Advanced, 1649.
21. Early hippie organizations in California and 
the UK called themselves the San Francisco 
Diggers, and the Hyde Park Diggers respectively.
22. Jerrard Winstanley, A Letter to The Lord 
Fairfax and his Council of War, Giles Calvert, 
1649.The quotation about manuring wasteland is 
cited by Christopher Hill, Gerard Winstanley: 
17th Century Communiat at Kingston, Kingston 
Umiversity lecture, 24 Jan 1966, available at
23. Holinshed's Chronicles, Vol 3, p220. Fabyan's 
Chronicle states of Cade "They faude him right 
discrete in his answerys". Cited in Jesse Collings, op cit 15, p 139.
24. David Boulton, Gerrard Winstanley and the 
Republic of Heaven, Dales Historical Monographs, 1999, chapter XIII.
25. Barbara Tuchman, A Distant Mirror, Macmillan, 1978, pp375-6
26. E P Thompson, Whigs and Hunters, Allen Lane , 1985.
27. Guy Vassal, La Guerre des Demoiselles, Editions de Paris, 2009.
28. See the article in this magazine by Roland Girtler and Gerald Kohl.
29. All the information on the fens in this 
section is taken from Joan Thirsk, English 
Peasant Farming: The Agrarian History of 
Lincolnshire from Tudor to Recent Times, Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1957.
30. Anon, The Anti-Projector; or the History of 
the Fen Project, 1646?, cited in Joan Thirsk, ibid, p30.
31. John Prebble, The Highland Clearances, 1963, p79.
32. Alastair McIntosh, "Wild Scots and Buffoon History", The Land 1, 2006.
33. Quoted in James Hunter, Skye, the Island, 
Mainstream, Edinburgh, 1986, p118.
34. One of best short accounts is in pp1-52 of 
Neeson, op cit 9, though there is also useful 
material in Tate, op cit 17, pp63-90.
35 Curtier, op cit 10; Tate op cit 17. A 
pro-enclosure summary of the General Views can be 
found on pp224-252 of Lord Ernle, English Farming Past and Present, 1912.
36. Arthur Young, Autobiography, 1898, republished AM Kelley, 1967.
37. G Slater, "Historical Outline of Land 
Ownership in England", in The Land , The Report 
of the Land Enquiry Committee, Hodder and Stoughton, 1913.
38. J L and Barbara Hammond, The Village Labourer, Guild, 1948 (1911) p60.
39 Thompson mentions the "long historiographical 
reaction against those fine historians, Barbara 
and JL Hammomd." Thompson, op cit 2, p115.
40. Tate, op cit 17, p97.
41. Curteis, op cit 10, p241.
42. Brian Inglis, Poverty and the Industrial 
Revolution, 1971, pp89-90, and p385.
43.Ibid, p386.
44 Kevin Cahill, op cit 1, p30.
45. David Landes, The Unbound Prometheus, Cambridge, 1969. p452.
46. Thirsk, op cit 29, p311.
47. Letters from America, cited by KDM Snell, 
Annals of the Labouring Poor, Cambridge 1985.
48. Tate op cit 15, p138. These figures are 
challenged by Curtier, whose The Enclosure and 
Redistribution of Our Land, op cit 10, is an 
apology for the landowning class. Curtier, an 
advocate of smallholdings maintained that thanks 
to landowners' generosity "there were a 
considerable number of small holdings in 
existence" and that "the lamentation over the 
landlessness of the poorer classes has been 
overdone". Yet he admits that "the total number 
of those having allotments and smallholdings 
bears a very small proportion to the total of the 
poorer classes." Curtier has a useful account of 
the effects of the various smallholding and allotment acts (pp278-301).
49. Collings, op cit 15; and Slater, op cit 37.
50. S Fairlie, "Farm Squat", The Land 2, Summer 2006.
51. Tate, op cit 15, p136.
52. Lord Eversley, English Commons and Forests, 1894.
53. George Bourne, Change in the Village, Penguin 1984 (1912), pp 77-78.
54. G M Trevelyan, English Social History, Longmans, p379.
47. Lord Ernle, English Farming Past and Present, Longmans, 1912.
55. Humanby, see J A Yelling, Common Field and 
Enclosure in England 1450-1850, Macmillan, 1977; 
Barrowby, see Joan Thirsk, op cit 29. J V, 
Beckett, The Agricultural Revolution, Basil 
Blackwell, 1990 provides a summary of this change of approach.
56. J M Neeson, op cit 10 . Other key books 
covering this debate include E C K Gonner, Common 
Land and Enclosure, Macmillan, 1912; J D Mingay, 
The Agricultural Revolution 1750-1880, Batsford, 1970; J A Yelling, ibid.
57. Institut National D'Etudes Demographiques, 
Total Population (Urban and Rural) of 
metropolitan France and Population Density — 
censuses 1846 to 2004, INED website; UK figures: 
from Lawson 1967, cited at
58. Doreen Warriner, Economics of Peasant Farming, Oxford, 1939, p3.
59.Gonner, op ci 56 p337 and p306; Neeson, op cit 
10, pp86 and 156; Thirsk, op cit 29, pp38, 116 and 213.
60. Cited in Curtier, op cit 10.
61. Jeremy Rifkin, Beyond Beef, Dutton, 1992,p60.
62. Neeson, op cit 28 pp 165, 311 and passim.
63. William Cobbett, Selections from the Political Register, 1813, Vol IV.
+44 (0)7786 952037
"Capitalism is institutionalised bribery."

"The maintenance of secrets acts like a psychic 
poison which alienates the possessor from the community" Carl Jung

Fear not therefore: for there is nothing covered 
that shall not be revealed; and nothing hid that 
shall not be made known. What I tell you in 
darkness, that speak ye in the light and what ye 
hear in the ear, that preach ye upon the housetops. Matthew 10:26-27

Die Pride and Envie; Flesh, take the poor's advice.
Covetousnesse be gon: Come, Truth and Love arise.
Patience take the Crown; throw Anger out of dores:
Cast out Hypocrisie and Lust, which follows whores:
Then England sit in rest; Thy sorrows will have end;
Thy Sons will live in peace, and each will be a friend. 
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