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?
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Paul Langford, Public Life and the Propertied Englishman 1689-1798 (OUP, 1991)
Murray G. H. Pittock, Inventing and Resisting Britain: Cultural Identities in Britain and Ireland, 1685-1789 (London: Routledge, 1997)
R. C. Allen, Enclosure and the Yeoman: The Agricultural Development of the South Midlands, 1450-1850 (Oxford, 1992)
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Susanna Wade Martins, Farmers, Landlords and Landscapes: Rural Britain, 1720-1870 (Windgather Press, 2004)