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´╗┐Title: The Enclosures in England - An Economic Reconstruction
Author: Bradley, Harriett, 1892-
Language: English
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*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Enclosures in England - An Economic Reconstruction" ***

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  Volume LXXX]  [Number 2

  Whole Number 186



  _Assistant Professor of Economics, Vassar College
  Sometime University Fellow in Economics_

  New York


  "It fareth with the earth as with
  other creatures that through
  continual labour grow faint and
                  _From speech made in the House of Commons, 1597_




  INTRODUCTION                                                        11
    The subject of inquiry--No attempt hitherto made to verify the
    different hypothetical explanations of the enclosures--Nature of the

  THE PRICE OF WOOL                                                   18
    Accepted theory of enclosure movement based on price of
    wool--Enclosures began independently of Black Death and before
    expansion of woollen industry--Price of wool low as compared with that
    of wheat in enclosure period--Seventeenth-century conversions of
    pasture to arable--Of arable to pasture--Conversion not explained by
    change in prices or wages--Double conversion movement due to condition
    of soil--Summary.

  THE FERTILITY OF THE COMMON FIELDS                                  51
    Dr. Russell on soil fertility--Insufficient manure--Statistical
    indications of yield--Compulsory land-holding--Desertion of
    villains--Commutation of services on terms advantageous to serf--Low
    rent obtained when bond land was leased--Remission of
    services--Changes due to economic need, not desired for improved
    social status--Poverty of villains--Cultivation of demesne

  THE DISINTEGRATION OF THE OPEN FIELDS                               73
    Growing irregularity of holdings--Consolidation of holdings--Turf
    boundaries plowed under--Lea land--Restoration of fertility--Enclosure
    by tenants--Land used alternately as pasture and arable--Summary of

  ENCLOSURE FOR SHEEP PASTURE                                         86
    Enclosure by small tenants difficult--Open-field tenants
    unprofitable--Low rents--Neglect of land--High cost of
    living--Enclosure even of demesne a hardship to small
    holders--Intermixture of holdings a reason for dispossessing
    tenants--Higher rents from enclosed land another reason--Poverty of
    tenants where no enclosures were made--Exhaustion of open fields
    recognised by Parliament--Restoration of fertility and reconversion to
    tillage--New forage crops in eighteenth century--Recapitulation and

  INDEX                                                              109


The enclosure movement--the process by which the common-field system
was broken down and replaced by a system of unrestricted private
use--involved economic and social changes which make it one of the
important subjects in English economic history. When it began, the
arable fields of a community lay divided in a multitude of strips
separated from each other only by borders of unplowed turf. Each
landholder was in possession of a number of these strips, widely
separated from each other, and scattered all over the open fields, so
that he had a share in each of the various grades of land.[1] But his
private use of the land was restricted to the period when it was being
prepared for crop or was under crop. After harvest the land was grazed
in common by the village flocks; and each year a half or a third of
the land was not plowed at all, but lay fallow and formed part of the
common pasture. Under this system there was no opportunity for
individual initiative in varying the rotation of crops or the dates of
plowing and seed time; the use of the land in common for a part of the
time restricted its use even during the time when it was not in
common. The process by which this system was replaced by modern
private ownership with unrestricted individual use is called the
enclosure movement, because it involved the rearrangement of holdings
into separate, compact plots, divided from each other by enclosing
hedges and ditches. The most notable feature of this process is the
conversion of the open fields into sheep pasture. This involved the
eviction of the tenants who had been engaged in cultivating these
fields and the amalgamation of many holdings of arable to form a few
large enclosures for sheep. The enclosure movement was not merely the
displacement of one system of tillage by another system of tillage; it
involved the temporary displacement of tillage itself in favor of

In this monograph two things are undertaken: first, an analysis of the
usually accepted version of the enclosure movement in the light of
contemporary evidence; and, secondly, the presentation of another
account of the nature and causes of the movement, consistent with
itself and with the available evidence. The popular account of the
enclosure movement turns upon a supposed advance in the price of wool,
due to the expansion of the woollen industry in the fifteenth and
sixteenth centuries. Landlords at this period (we are told) were
increasingly eager for pecuniary gain and, because of the greater
profit to be made from grazing, were willing to evict the tenants on
their land and convert the arable fields to sheep pasture. About the
end of the sixteenth century, it is said, this first enclosure
movement came to an end, for there are evidences of the reconversion
of pastures formerly laid to grass. An inquiry into the evidence shows
that the price of wool fell during the fifteenth century and failed to
rise as rapidly as that of wheat during the sixteenth century.
Moreover, the conversion of arable land to pasture did not cease when
the contrary process set in, but continued throughout the seventeenth
century with apparently unabated vigor. These facts make it impossible
to accept the current theory of the enclosure movement. There is, on
the other hand, abundant evidence that the fertility of much of the
common-field land had been exhausted by centuries of cultivation. Some
of it was allowed to run to waste; some was laid to grass, enclosed,
and used as pasture. Productivity was gradually restored after some
years of rest, and it became possible to resume cultivation. The
enclosure movement is explained not by a change in the price of wool,
but by the gradual loss of productivity of common-field land.

This explanation is not made here for the first time. It is advanced
in Denton's _England in the Fifteenth Century_[2] and Gardiner, in
his _Student's History of England_,[3] accepts it. Prothero[4] and
Gonner[5] give it some place in their works. Dr. Simkhovitch, at whose
suggestion this inquiry was undertaken, has for some time been of the
opinion that deterioration of the soil was the fundamental cause of
the displacement of arable farming by grazing.[6] This explanation,
however, stands at the present time as an unverified hypothesis, which
has been specifically rejected by Gibbins, in his widely used
text-book,[7] and by Hasbach,[8] who objects that Denton does not
prove his case. In this respect the theory is no more to be criticised
than the theory which these authorities accept, for that does not rest
upon proof, but upon the prestige gained through frequent repetition.
But the matter need not rest here. It is unnecessary to accept any
hypothetical account of events which are, after all, comparatively
recent, and for which the evidence is available.

Of the various sources accessible for the study of the English
enclosure movement, one type only has been extensively used by
historians. The whole story of this movement as it is usually told is
based upon tracts, sermons, verses, proclamations, etc. of the
sixteenth century--upon the literature of protest called forth by the
social distress caused by enclosure. Until very recently the similar
literature of the seventeenth century has been neglected, although it
destroys the basis of assumptions which are fundamental to the
orthodox account of the movement. Much of significance even in the
literature of the sixteenth century has been passed over--notably
certain striking passages in statutes of the latter half of the
century, and in books on husbandry of the first half. Details of
manorial history derived from the account rolls of the manors
themselves, and contemporary manorial maps and surveys, as well as the
records of the actual market prices of grain and wool, have been
ignored in the construction of an hypothetical account of the movement
which breaks down whenever verification by contemporary evidence is

The evidence is in many respects imperfect. It would be of great
value, for instance, to have access to records of grain production
over an area extensive enough, and for a long enough period, to
furnish reliable statistical indications of the trend of productivity.
It would be helpful to have exact information about the amount of land
converted from arable to pasture in each decade of the period under
consideration, and to know to what extent and at what dates land was
reconverted to tillage after having been laid to grass. There are no
records to supply most of this information. It is possible that the
materials for a statistical study of soil productivity are in
existence, but up to the present time they have not been published,
and it is doubtful if this deficiency will be supplied. It is even
more doubtful whether more can be learned about the rate of conversion
of arable land to pasture than is now known, and this is little.
Professor Gay has made a careful study of the evidence on this
question, and has analysed the reports of the government commissions
for enforcing the husbandry statutes before 1600,[9] and Miss Leonard
has made the returns of the commission of 1630 for Leicestershire
available.[10] The conditions under which these commissions worked
make the returns somewhat unreliable even for the years covered by
their reports, and much interpolation is necessary, as there are
serious gaps in the series of years for which returns are made. For
dates outside of the period 1485-1630 we must rely entirely on
literary references. Unsatisfactory as our statistical information is
on this important question, it is far more complete than the evidence
on the subject of the reconversion to tillage of arable land which had
been turned into pasture.

It is to the unfortunate social consequences of enclosure that we owe
the abundance of historical material on this subject. Undoubtedly much
land was converted to pasture in a piece-meal fashion, as small
holders saw the possibility of making the change quietly, and without
disturbing the rest of the community. If enclosure had taken no other
form than this, no storm of public protest would have risen, to
express itself in pamphlets, sermons, statutes and government reports.
Enclosure on a large scale involved dispossession of the inhabitants,
and a complete break with traditional usage. For this reason the
literature of the subject is abundant. When, however, the process was
reversed, and the land again brought under cultivation, there was
involved no interference with the rights of common holders. It was to
the interest of no one to oppose this change, and no protest was made
to call the attention of the historian to what was being done.
References to the process are numerous enough only to prove that
reconversion of land formerly laid to grass took place during the
fifteenth, sixteenth, and seventeenth centuries--to an extent of which
not even an approximate estimate can be made.

Imperfect as the evidence is from some points of view, it is
nevertheless complete for the purposes of this monograph. It would be
impossible, with the material at hand, to reconstruct the progress of
the enclosure movement, decade by decade, and county by county,
throughout England. My intention, however, is not so much to describe
the movement in detail as it is to give a consistent account of its
nature and causes. Even a few sixteenth-century instances of the
plowing up of pasture land should be enough to arrest the attention of
historians who believe that the conversion of arable land to pasture
during this period is sufficiently explained by an assertion that the
price of wool was high. What especial circumstances made it
advantageous to cultivate land which had been under grass, while other
land was being withdrawn from cultivation? Contemporary writers speak
of the need of worn land for rest for a long period of years, and
remark that it will bear well again at the end of the period. Evidence
such as this is significant without the further information which
would enable us to estimate the amount of land affected. For our
purposes, also, the notice of enclosure of arable land for pasture on
one group of manors in the early thirteenth century is important as an
indication that the fundamental cause of the enclosure movement was at
work long before the Black Death, which is usually taken as the event
in which the movement had its beginning. Low rents, pauperism, and
abandonment of land are facts which indicate declining productivity of
the soil, and statistical records of the harvests reaped are not
needed when statutes, proclamations, and books of husbandry describe
the exhausted condition of the common fields. The fact that the
enclosure movement continued vigorously in the seventeenth century is
conclusively established, and when this fact is known the
impossibility of estimating the comparative rate of progress of the
movement in the preceding century is of no importance. Upon one point
at least, the evidence is almost all that could be desired. The
material for a comparison of the prices of wheat and wool throughout
the most critical portion of the period has been made accessible by
Thorold Rogers.[11] It is to this material that the defenders of the
theory that enclosures are explained by the price of wool should turn,
for they will find a fall of price where they assume that a rise took
place. Instead of an increase in the supply of wool due to a rise in
its price, there is indicated a fall in the price of wool due to an
increase in the supply. The cause of the increase of the supply of
wool must be sought outside of the price conditions.

Acknowledgment should here be made of my indebtedness to Dr. V. G.
Simkhovitch of Columbia University, without whose generous help this
study would not have been planned, and whose criticism and advice have
been invaluable in bringing it to completion. Professor Seager also
has given helpful criticism. Professor Seligman has allowed me the use
of books from his library which I should otherwise have been unable to
obtain. For material which could not be found in American libraries I
am indebted to my mother and father, who obtained it for me in


[1] V. G. Simkovitch, _Political Science Quarterly_, vol. xxvii, p. 398.

[2] (London, 1888), pp. 153-154. Denton refers here to Gisborne's _Ag.
Essays_, as does Curtler, in his _Short Hist. of Eng. Ag._ (Oxford,
1909), p. 77.

[3] Vol. i, p. 321.

[4] _English Farming Past and Present_ (London, 1912), p. 64.

[5] _Common Land and Enclosure_, p. 121.

[6] See _Political Science Quarterly_, vol. xxxi, p. 214.

[7] _Industry in England_ (New York, 1897), p. 181.

[8] _Hist. of the Eng. Ag. Laborer_ (London, 1908), p. 31.

[9] _Pub. Am. Ec. Assoc._, Third Series (1905), vol vi, no. 2, pp.
146-160: "Inclosure Movement in England."

[10] _Royal Hist. Soc. Trans._, New Series (1905), vol. xix, pp.
101-146: "Inclosure of Common Fields."

[11] _Cf. infra_, p. 26.



The generally accepted version of the enclosure movement turns upon
supposed changes in the relative prices of wool and grain. The
conversion of arable land to pasture in the fifteenth and sixteenth
centuries is accounted for by the hypothesis that the price of wool
was rising more rapidly than that of grain. The beginning of the
enclosure movement, according to this theory, dates from the time when
a rise in the price of wool became marked, and the movement ended when
there was a relative rise in the price of agricultural products.
Before the price of wool began to rise, it is supposed that tillage
was profitable enough, and that nothing but the higher profits to be
made from grazing induced landholders to abandon agriculture. The
agrarian readjustments of the fourteenth century are regarded as due
simply to the temporary shortage of labor caused by the Black Death.
High wages at this time caused the conversion of some land to pasture,
according to the orthodox theory, and from time to time during the
next two centuries high wages were a contributing factor influencing
the withdrawal of land from tillage; but the great and effective cause
of the enclosure movement, the one fundamental fact which is insisted
upon, is that constant advances in the price of wool made grazing
relatively profitable. It is usually accepted without debate that the
withdrawal of arable land from tillage did not begin until after the
Black Death, that the enclosures of the fifteenth and sixteenth
centuries were caused by a rise in the price of wool, and that the
conversion of arable land to pasture ceased when this cause ceased to

Against this general explanation of the enclosure movement, it is
urged, first, that the withdrawal of land from cultivation began long
before the date at which the enclosure movement, caused by an alleged
rise in the price of wool, is ordinarily said to have begun. The
fourteenth century was marked by agrarian readjustments which have a
direct relation to the enclosure movement, and which cannot be
explained by the Black Death or the price of wool. Even in the
thirteenth century the causes leading to the enclosure movement were
well marked. Secondly, the cause of the substitution of sheep-farming
for agriculture in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries cannot have
been a rise in the price of wool relatively to that of grain, because
statistics show that the price of wool fell during the fifteenth
century, and failed to rise as rapidly as that of wheat in the
sixteenth century. Thirdly, a mere comparison of the relative prices
of grazing and agricultural products cannot explain the fact that
conversion of open-field land to pasture continued throughout the
seventeenth century in spite of prices which made it profitable for
landowners at the same time to convert a large amount of grass-land to
tillage, including enclosures which had formerly been taken from the
common fields. If these facts are accepted the explanation of the
enclosure movement which is based upon a comparison of the prices of
wheat and wool must be rejected, and the story must be told from a
different point of view.

Taking up these points in order, we shall inquire first into the
causes of the agrarian readjustments of the fourteenth century. A
generation after the Black Death, the commutation of villain services
and the introduction of the leasehold system had made notable
progress. The leasing of the demesne has been attributed to the
direct influence of the pestilence, which by reducing the serf
population made it impossible to secure enough villain labor to
cultivate the lord's land. The substitution of money rents in place of
the labor services owed by the villains has been explained on the
supposition that the serfs who had survived the pestilence took
advantage of the opportunity afforded by their reduction in numbers to
free themselves from servile labor and thus improve their social
status. The connection between the Black Death and the changes in
manorial management which are usually attributed to it could be more
convincingly established had not several decades elapsed after the
Black Death before these changes became marked. A recent intensive
study of the manors of the Bishopric of Winchester during this period
confirms the view of those who have protested against assigning to the
Black Death the revolutionary importance which is given it by many
historians. On these estates the Black Death "produced severe
evanescent effects and temporary changes, with a rapid return to the
_status quo_ of 1348."[12] The great changes which are usually
attributed to the plague of 1348-1350 were under way before 1348, and
were not greatly accelerated until 1360, possibly not before 1370, and
cannot, therefore, have been due to the Black Death.

Levett and Ballard devote especial attention to the effect of the
Black Death upon the substitution of money payments for labor services
and rents in kind, but their study also brings out the fact that the
difficulty in persuading tenants to take up land on the old terms
(usually ascribed to the Black Death) began before the pestilence, and
continued long after its effects had ceased to exert any influence.
Before the Black Death landowners were unable to secure holders for
bond land without the use of force. A generation after the Black Death
they were still contending with this problem, and it had become more
serious than at any previous time. Whatever the significance of the
Black Death, it must not be advanced as the explanation of a condition
which arose before its occurrence, nor of events which took place long
after its effects were forgotten. One result of the pestilence was,
indeed, to place villains in a stronger position than before, but the
changes which took place on this account must not be allowed to
obscure the fact that landowners were already facing serious
difficulties before 1348. Holders of land were already deserting, and
the tenements of those who died or deserted could frequently be filled
only by compulsion. Villains were refusing to perform their services
_on account of poverty_, and they were already securing reductions in
their rents and services. The temporary reduction of the population by
the Black Death has been advanced as the reason for the ability of the
villains of the decade 1350-1360 to enforce their demands; but without
the help of any such cause, villains of an earlier period were
obtaining concessions from their lords, and after the natural growth
of the population had had ample time to replace those who had died of
the pestilence, the villains were in a stronger position than ever
before, if we are to estimate their strength by their success in
lightening their economic burdens. The Black Death at the most did no
more than accelerate changes in the tenure of land which were already
under way. Villain services were being reduced, and the size of
villain holdings increased. The strength of the position of the serfs
lay not so much in the absence of competition due to a temporary
reduction in their numbers as in their poverty. Tenants could not be
held at the accustomed rents and services because it was impossible to
make a living from their holdings. The absence of competition for
holdings was no temporary thing, due to the high mortality of the
years 1348-1350, but was chronic, and was based upon the worthlessness
of the land. The vacant tenements of the fourteenth century, the
reduction in the area of demesne land planted, the complaints that no
profit could be made from tillage, the reduction of rents on account
of the poverty of whole villages, all point in the same direction.
These matters will be taken up more fully in a later chapter. Here it
need only be pointed out that the withdrawal of land from cultivation
was under way because tillage was unprofitable.

If tillage was unprofitable in the fourteenth century, so unprofitable
that heirs were anxious to buy themselves free of the obligation to
enter upon their inheritance, while established landholders deserted
their tenements, the enclosure of arable land for pasture in the
fifteenth century is seen in a new light. When there was no question
of desiring the land for sheep pasture, it was voluntarily abandoned
by cultivators. Displacement of tillage due to an internal cause
precedes displacement of tillage for sheep pasture. The process of
withdrawing land from cultivation began independently of the scarcity
of labor caused by the Black Death and independently of any change in
the price of wool; the continuation of this process in the fifteenth
century is not likely to depend entirely upon a rise in the price of
wool. That the enclosures of the fifteenth century were in reality
merely a further step in the readjustments under way in the fourteenth
century cannot be doubted. And that the whole process was independent
of the especial external influence upon agriculture exerted in the
fourteenth century by the Black Death and in the fifteenth and
sixteenth centuries by the growth of the woollen industry is shown in
the case of a group of manors where the essential features of the
enclosure movement appeared in the thirteenth century. More than a
hundred years before the Black Death the Lord of Berkeley found it
impossible to obtain tenants for bond land at the accustomed rents.
Villains were giving up their holdings because they could not pay the
rent and perform the services. The land which had in earlier times
been sufficient for the maintenance of a villain and his family and
had produced a surplus for rent had lost its fertility, and the
holdings fell vacant. The land which reverted to the lord on this
account was split up and leased at nominal rents, when leaseholders
could be found, just as so much land was leased at reduced rents by
landowners generally in the fourteenth century. Moreover, some of the
land was unfit for cultivation at all and was converted to pasture
under the direction of the lord.[13]

If the disintegration of manorial organization observed in the
fourteenth century and earlier was not due to the Black Death; if this
disintegration was under way before the pestilence reduced the
population, and was not checked when the ravages of the plague had
been made good; if tillage was already unprofitable before the
fifteenth century with its growth of the woollen industry; and if land
was being converted to pasture at a time when neither the price of
wool nor the Black Death can be offered as the explanation of this
conversion; then there is suggested the possibility that the whole
enclosure movement can be sufficiently accounted for without especial
reference to the prices of wool and grain. If the enclosure movement
began before the fifteenth century and originated in causes other than
the Black Death, the discovery of these original causes may also
furnish the explanation of the continuance of the movement in the
fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. The amount of land under
cultivation was being reduced before the date at which the price of
wool is supposed to have risen sufficiently to displace agriculture
for the sake of wool growing, and this early reduction in the arable
cannot, clearly, be accounted for by reference to the prices of wool
and grain. But it also happens that, in the very period when an
increase in the demand for wool is usually alleged as the cause of the
enclosures, the price of wool fell relatively to that of grain. The
increase in sheep-farming in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries,
together with the fact that the domestic cloth manufacture was being
improved at this time, has been the basis of the assumption that the
price of wool was rising. The causal sequence has been supposed to be:
(1) an increase in the manufacture of woollens; (2) an increase in the
demand for wool; (3) an increase in the price of wool; (4) an increase
in wool-growing at the expense of tillage, and the enclosure of common
lands. If, as a matter of fact, the price of wool fell during this
period, the causal sequence is reversed. If the price of wool fell,
the increase in the manufacture of woollens has no relation to the
enclosure movement, unless it is its result, and we are forced to look
elsewhere for the cause of the increase of sheep-farming.

The accompanying tables and chart, showing the changes in the price of
wool and of wheat from the middle of the thirteenth century through
the first quarter of the sixteenth century, have been prepared from
the materials given by Thorold Rogers in his _History of Agriculture
and Prices in England_.[14] The averages given in his tables are based
upon records of actual sales. They furnish, therefore, the exact
information needed in connection with the theory that a rise in the
price of wool relatively to that of wheat was the cause of the
enclosure movement in England. In the century and a half before 1400,
there were wide fluctuations in the prices of both commodities, but
the price of wool rose and fell with that of wheat. The first quarter
of the fourteenth century was a period of falling prices. The fall
continued in the case of wool until about the middle of the century,
when a recovery began, culminating about 1380. A rise in the price of
wheat occurred sooner than that of wool and reached its climax about
1375. In the last quarter of the century the prices of both wool and
wheat fell, with a slight recovery in the last decade of the century.



               Wheat, per    Wool, per
                quarter    tod (28 lbs.)
                s.  d.        s.  d.

    1261-1270   4  8-5/8      9   -
    1271-1280   5  7-3/4      9   2
    1281-1290   5  0-7/8      8  10
    1291-1300   6  1-1/8      7  10
    1301-1310   5  7-1/4      9   -
    1311-1320   7  10-1/4     9  11
    1321-1330   6  11-5/8     9   7
    1331-1340   4  8-3/4      7   3
    1341-1350   5  3-1/8      6  10
    1351-1360   6  10-5/8     6   7
    1361-1370   7  3-1/4      9   3
    1371-1380   6  1-1/4     10  11
    1381-1390   5  2          8   -
    1391-1400   5  3          8   4
    1401-1410   5  8-1/4      9   2-1/2
    1411-1420   5  6-3/4      7   8-1/4
    1421-1430   5  4-3/4      7   5-1/2
    1431-1440   6  11         5   9
    1441-1450   5  5-3/4      4  10-1/2
    1451-1460   5  6-1/2      4   3-3/4
    1461-1470   5  4-1/2      4  11-1/2
    1471-1480   5  4-1/4      5   4
    1481-1490   6  3-1/2      4   8-1/2
    1491-1500   5  0-3/4      6   0-1/2
    1501-1510   5  5-1/2      4   5-3/4
    1511-1520   6  8-3/4      6   7-1/4
    1521-1530   7  6          5   4-1/4
    1531-1540   7  8-1/2      6   8-3/4
    1541-1550  10  8         20   8
    1551-1560  15  3-3/4     15   8
    1561-1570  12  10-1/4    16   -
    1571-1582  16  8         17   -



                 Wheat, per     Wool, per
    Date          quarter         tod

                   s.  d.       s.  d.

    1261-1400      5  11        8  7

    1351-1400      6   1-3/4    8  7
    1401-1460      5   9        6  2-1/2
    1461-1500      5   6-1/2    5  3
    1501-1540      6  10-1/4    5  9-1/2

  [Illustration: Graph]

After 1400 the price of wheat held at about the average price of the
previous period, but for sixty years the price of wool fell, without a
check in its downward movement. It is in this period that the woollen
industry entered upon the period of expansion which is supposed to
have been the cause of the enclosure movement, but there was no rise
in the price of wool. Instead, there was a decided fall.[15] The
average price for the decade 1451-1460 was just about one-half of the
average price for the period 1261-1400. (The average price of wool in
the last fifty years of the fourteenth century happens to be the same
as the average for the period 1261-1400. Either the longer or the
shorter period may be used indifferently as the basis for comparison).
The average price for the period 1401-1460 was 25 per cent lower than
the average for the preceding half-century. A comparatively slight
depression in the price of wheat in the same period is shown in the
tables. The average for 1401-1461 is only three per cent lower than
that for 1265-1400 (seven per cent lower than the average for
1351-1400). Before 1460, then, there was nothing in market conditions
to favor the extension of sheep farming, but there is reason to
believe that the withdrawal of land from tillage had already begun.
Leaving aside the enclosure and conversion of common-field land by the
Berkeleys in the thirteenth century, we may yet note that "An early
complaint of illegal enclosure occurs in 1414 where the inhabitants of
Parleton and Ragenell in Notts petition against Richard Stanhope, who
had inclosed the lands there by force of arms." Miss Leonard, who is
authority for this statement, also refers to the statute of 1402 in
which "depopulatores agrorum" are mentioned.[16] In a grant of Edward
V the complaint is made that "this body falleth daily to decay by
closures and emparking, by driving away of tenants and letting down of
tenantries."[17] It is strange, if these enclosures are to be
explained by increasing demand for wool, that this heightened demand
was not already reflected in rising prices.

But, it may be urged, the true enclosure movement did not begin until
after 1460. If a marked rise in the price of wool occurred after 1460,
it might be argued that enclosures spread and the price of wool rose
together, and that the latter was the cause of the former. Turning
again to the record of prices, we see that although the low level of
the decade 1451-1460 marks the end of the period of falling prices, no
rise took place for several decades after 1460. Rous gives a list of
54 places "which, within a circuit of thirteen miles about Warwick
had been wholly or partially depopulated before about 1486."[18] Two
or three years later acts were passed against depopulation in whose
preambles the agrarian situation is described: The Isle of Wight "is
late decayed of people, by reason that many townes and vilages been
lete downe and the feldes dyked and made pastures for bestis and
cattalles." In other parts of England there is "desolacion and pulling
downe and wylfull wast of houses and towns ... and leying to pasture
londes whiche custumably haue ben used in tylthe, wherby ydlenesse is
growde and begynnyng of all myschevous dayly doth encrease. For where
in some townes ii hundred persones were occupied and lived by their
lawfull labours, now ben there occupied ii or iii herdemen, and the
residue falle in ydlenes."[19] It may be remarked that while the price
records show conclusively that no rise in the profits of wool-growing
caused these enclosures, the language of the statutes shows also that
scarcity of labor was not their cause, since one of the chief
objections to the increase of pasture is the unemployment caused.

It would seem hardly necessary to push the comparison of the prices of
wool and wheat beyond 1490. In order to establish the contention that
the enclosure movement was caused by an advance in the price of wool,
it would be necessary to show that this advance took place before the
date at which the enclosure problem had become so serious as to be the
subject of legislation. By 1490 statesmen were already alarmed at the
progress made by enclosure. The movement was well under way. Yet it
has been shown that the price of wool had been falling for over a
century, instead of rising, and that the price of wheat held its own.
Even if it could be established that the price of wheat fell as
compared with that of wool after this date, the usually accepted
version of the enclosure movement would still be inadequate. But as a
matter of fact the price of wheat rose steadily after 1490, reaching a
higher average in each succeeding decade, while the price of wool
wavered about an average which rose very slowly until 1535. The
entries on which these wool averages are based are few, and greater
uncertainty therefore attaches to their representativeness than in the
case of the prices of earlier decades, but the evidence, such as it
is, points to a more rapid rise in the price of wheat than in the
price of wool. Between 1500 and 1540 the average price of wheat was
nearly 24 per cent above that of the previous forty years, but the
average price of wool rose only ten per cent. There are only nine
entries of wool prices for the forty-six years after 1536, but these
are enough to show that the price of wool, like that of wheat and all
other commodities, was rising rapidly at this time. The lack of
material upon which to base a comparison of the actual rate of
increase of price for the two commodities makes further statistical
analysis impossible, but a knowledge of prices after the date at which
the material ceases would add nothing to the evidence on the subject
under consideration.

Sir Thomas More's _Utopia_ was written in 1516, with its well-known
passage describing contemporary enclosures in terms similar to those
used in the statutes of thirty years before, and complaining that the

     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 downe the very men them selfes. They
     consume, destroye, and devoure whole fields, howses, and cities.
     For looke in what partes of the realme doth growe the fynest, and
     therfore dearest woll, there noblemen, and gentlemen: yea and
     certeyn Abbottes ... leave no grounde for tillage, thei inclose
     al into pastures: thei throw doune houses: they plucke downe
     townes, and leave nothing standynge, but only the churche to be
     made a shepe-howse.[20]

These enclosures were not caused by an advance in the price of wool
relatively to that of wheat, as the rise in the price of wool in the
decade 1510-1520 was no greater than that of corn. Nor does sheep
farming seem to have been especially profitable at this time, as More
himself attributes the high price of wool in part to a "pestiferous
morrein." Again, the complaint is also made that unemployment was
caused, showing that scarcity of labor was not the reason for the
conversion of arable to pasture:

     The husbandmen be thrust owte of their owne, ... whom no man wyl
     set a worke, though thei never so willyngly profre themselves
     therto. For one Shephearde or Heardman is ynoughe to eate up that
     grounde with cattel, to the occupiyng wherof aboute husbandrye
     manye handes were requisite.[21]

In 1514 a new husbandry statute was passed, penalising the conversion
of tillage to pasture, and requiring the restoration of the land to
tillage. It was repeated and made perpetual in the following year. In
1517 a commission was ordered to enquire into the destruction of
houses since 1488 and the conversion of arable to pasture. In 1518 a
fresh commission was issued and the prosecution of offenders was
begun. These facts are cited as a further reminder of the fact that
the period for which the prices of wool and wheat are both known is
the critical period in the enclosure movement. It is the enclosures
covered by these acts and those referred to by Sir Thomas More which
historians have explained by alleging that the price of wool was
high. As a matter of record, the course of prices was such as to
encourage the extension of tillage rather than of pasture.

After an examination of these price statistics it hardly seems
necessary to advance further objections to the accepted account of the
enclosure movement, based as it is upon the assumption that price
movements in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries were exactly
opposite to those which have been shown to take place. There is no
reason to doubt the accuracy of Rogers' figures within the limits
required for our purpose, and the evidence based on these figures is
in itself conclusive. Even without this evidence, however, there is
sufficient reason for rejecting the theory that changes in the prices
of grain and wool account for the facts of the enclosure movement. For
one thing, if the price of wool actually did rise (in spite of the
statistical evidence to the contrary) and if this is actually the
cause of the enclosure movement, the movement should have come to an
end when sufficient time had elapsed for an adjustment of the wool
supply to the increasing demand. If the movement did not come to an
end within a reasonable period, there would be reason for suspecting
the adequacy of the explanation advanced. As a matter of fact, it is
usually thought that the enclosure movement did end about 1600. Much
land which had not been affected by the changes of the fifteenth and
sixteenth centuries (it is usually asserted) escaped enclosure
altogether until the need for better agriculture in the eighteenth
century ushered in the so-called second enclosure movement, which did
not involve the conversion of tilled land to pasture. This alleged
check in the progress of the enclosure movement is inferred from the
fact that new land, and even some of the land formerly withdrawn from
the common-fields to be converted to pasture, was being tilled. This
is interpreted by economic historians as evidence that arable land
was no longer being converted to pasture. We are told by Meredith, for
instance, that "Moneyed men at the end of Elizabeth's reign were
beginning to find it profitable to sink money in arable farming, a
fact which points to the conclusion that there was no longer any
differential advantage in sheep-raising."[22] Cunningham is also of
the opinion that "So far as such a movement can be definitely dated,
it may be said that enclosure for the sake of increasing sheep-farming
almost entirely ceased with the reign of Elizabeth."[23] Innes gives
as the cause of this supposed check in the reduction of arable land to
pasture that "The expansion of pasturage appears to have reached the
limit beyond which it would have ceased to be profitable."[24] It is
indeed reasonable that the high prices which are supposed to have been
the cause of the sudden increase in wool production should be
gradually lowered as the supply increased, and that thus the
inducement to the conversion of arable to pasture would in time
disappear. The theory that the enclosure movement was due to an
increase in the price of wool would be seriously weakened if the
movement continued for a time longer than that required to bring about
an adjustment of the supply to the increased demand.

For the sake of consistency, then, this point in the account of the
enclosure movement is necessary. It would follow naturally from the
original explanation of the movement as the response to an increased
demand for wool, as reflected in high prices. With the decrease in
prices to be expected as the supply increased, the incentive for
converting arable to pasture would be removed. Historians sometimes
speak of other considerations which might have contributed to the
cessation of the enclosure movement. Ashley, for instance, suggests
that landowners found that to "devote their lands continuously to
sheep-breeding did not turn out quite so profitable as was at first
expected."[25] Others refer to the contemporary complaints of the bad
effect of enclosure upon the quality of wool. The breed of sheep which
could be kept in enclosed pastures was said to produce coarser wool
than those grazing on the hilly pastures, and this deterioration in
the quality of wool so cut down the profits from enclosures that men
now preferred to plow them up again, and resume tillage. The extent to
which the plowing up of pasture can be attributed to this cause must
be very slight, however, as even contemporaries disagreed as to the
existence of any deterioration in the quality of the wool. Some
authorities even state that the quality was improved by the use of
enclosed pasture: when Cornwall,

     through want of good manurance lay waste and open, the sheep had
     generally little bodies and coarse fleeces, so as their wool bare
     no better name than Cornish hair ... but since the grounds began
     to receive enclosure and dressing for tillage, the nature of the
     soil hath altered to a better grain and yieldeth nourishment in
     greater abundance to the beasts that pasture thereupon; so as, by
     this means ... Cornish sheep come but little behind the eastern
     flocks for bigness of mould, _fineness of wool, etc._[26]

The plowing up of pasture land for tillage cannot, then, be explained
by the effect of enclosure upon the quality of wool. It has been
ordinarily taken as an indication that the price of grain was now
rising more rapidly than that of wool, partly because a relaxation of
the corn-laws permitted greater freedom of export, and partly because
the home demand was increasing on account of the growth of the
population. Graziers were as willing to convert pastures to
corn-fields for the sake of greater profits as their predecessors had
been to carry out the contrary process. The deciding factor in the
situation, according to the orthodox account, was the relative price
of wool and grain. When the price of wool rose more rapidly than that
of grain, arable land was enclosed and used for grazing. When the
price of grain rose more rapidly than that of wool, pastures were
plowed up and cultivated.

Up to this point, the account is consistent. If the price of wool was
rising more rapidly than that of grain during the fifteenth and
sixteenth centuries (in spite of the statistical evidence to the
contrary) it is reasonable that the differential advantage in grazing
should finally come to an end when a new balance between tillage and
grazing was established. It is not even surprising that the conversion
of arable to pasture should have continued beyond the proper point,
and that a contrary movement should set in. Bacon, in 1592, remarked
that men had of late been enticed by the good yield of corn and the
increased freedom of export to "break up more ground and convert it to
tillage than all the penal laws for that purpose made and enacted
could ever by compulsion effect."[27] In 1650 Lord Monson plowed up
100 acres of Grafton Park, which had formerly been pasture, and there
are many other records showing a tendency to convert pasture to arable
in the seventeenth century.[28] It is true that men were able to make
a profit from agriculture by the end of the sixteenth century. But
there is one difficulty which has been overlooked: the withdrawal
from agriculture of common-field land did _not_ cease. The protests
against depopulating enclosure continue, and government reports and
surveys show that enclosure for pasture was proceeding at as rapid a
rate as in the sixteenth century. Miss Leonard's article on "Inclosure
of Common Fields in the Seventeenth Century"[29] contains a mass of
evidence which is conclusive. A few quotations will indicate its

    "In Leicestershire the enclosures of Cottesbach in 1602, of Enderby
    about 1605, of Thornby about 1616, were all accomplished by a
    lessening of the land under the plough. Moore, writing in 1656,
    says: 'Surely they may make men as soon believe there is no sun in
    the firmament as that usually depopulation and decay of tillage will
    not follow inclosure in our inland countyes.'" (p. 117). Letters
    from the Council were written in 1630 complaining of "'enclosures
    and convercons tending as they generallie doe unto depopulation....
    There appeares many great inclosures ... all wch are or are lyke to
    turne to the conversion of much ground from errable to pasture and
    be very hurtfull to the commonwealth.... We well know wth all what
    ye consequence will be, and in conclusion all turne to
    depopulation!'" (p. 128). Forster, writing in 1664, says, "there
    hath been of late years divers whole lordships and towns enclosed
    and their earable land converted into pasture!" (p. 142).

Frequently the same proprietor in the same year plowed up pasture land
for corn and laid arable to pasture. Tawney cites a case in which
ninety-five acres of ancient pasture were brought under cultivation
while thirty-five acres of arable were laid to grass.[30] In 1630 the
Countess of Westmoreland enclosed and converted arable, but tilled
other land instead.[31] The enclosure movement, then, did not end at
the time when it is usually thought to have ended. Since it is
difficult to suppose that the price of wool could have been advancing
constantly throughout two centuries, without causing such a
readjustment in the use of land that no further withdrawal of land
from tillage for pasture would be necessary, the continuance of the
conversion of arable to pasture in the seventeenth century throws
suspicion upon the whole explanation of the enclosure movement as due
to the increased demand for wool.

Miss Leonard, indeed, advances the hypothesis that the price of wool
ceased to be the cause of enclosure during the seventeenth century,
but that other price changes had the same effect:

     The increase in pasture in the sixteenth century was rendered
     profitable by the rapid increase in the price of wool, but, in
     the seventeenth century, this cause ceases to operate. The change
     to pasture, however, continued, partly owing to a great rise in
     the price of cattle, and partly because the increase in wages
     made it less profitable to employ the greater number of men
     necessary for tilling the fields.[32]

The assumption that wages and the price of cattle advanced
sufficiently in the seventeenth century to account for the change to
pasture are no better justified than the assumption of the rapid rise
in the price of wool in the sixteenth century. If the price of meat
and dairy products rose in the seventeenth century, so did the price
of grain and other foods. The relative rate of increase is the only
point significant for the present discussion. No statistics are
available to show whether the price of cattle rose more rapidly than
that of grain, and the evidence afforded by the reduction of arable
land to pasture is counterbalanced by the equally well-established
fact that much pasture land was plowed and planted in this period. It
is equally probable on the basis of this evidence that the prices of
wheat and barley advanced more rapidly than those of meat and butter
and cheese. The same difficulty is met in the suggestion that the
increase in pasturage was due partly to higher wages for farm labor.
The extension of tillage over much land formerly laid to pasture as
well as that which had never been plowed at all is sufficient cause
for doubting a prohibitive increase in wages. Moreover, in modern
times, wages lag in general rise of prices. Unless conclusive evidence
is presented to show that this was not the case in the seventeenth
century, it must be assumed to be inherently probable that the
increased wages of the time were more than offset by the rapidly
advancing prices.

During the seventeenth century, then, when it is admitted that the
high price of wool was not the cause which induced landowners to
convert arable to pasture, it cannot be shown that the high price of
cattle or exorbitant wages will account for the withdrawal of land
from cultivation. This is an important point, for historians
frequently support their main contention with regard to the enclosure
movement (_i. e._, that it was caused by an increase in the price of
wool), by the statement that increasing wages made landlords abandon
tillage for sheep-farming, with its smaller labor charges. It has been
shown that the conversion of arable to pasture in the fifteenth and
sixteenth centuries cannot be explained by the price of wool, but it
may still be urged that agriculture was rendered unprofitable by high
wages. Indeed, it is usually stated that the withdrawal of land from
cultivation which took place in the fourteenth century was due to the
scarcity of labor caused by the Black Death. In the fifteenth century
population was reduced by the Wars of the Roses; and throughout the
period under consideration, agriculture had to meet the competition of
the growing town industries for labor. Is it not possible that these
influences caused an exorbitant rise in wages which would alone
account for the substitution of sheep-farming for tillage?

The obvious character of the enclosure movement makes it impossible to
accept this hypothesis. The conversion of arable land to pasture was
caused by no demand for higher wages, which made tillage unprofitable.
The unemployment and pauperism caused by the enclosure of the open
fields are notorious, and it is to these features of the enclosure
movement that we owe the mass of literature on the subject. Enclosures
called forth a storm of protest, because they took away the living of
poor husbandry families. The acute distress undergone by those who
were evicted from their holdings is sufficient indication of the
difficulty of finding employment, and it is impossible that wages
could remain at an exorbitant level when the enclosure of the lands of
one open-field township made enough men homeless to supply any
existing dearth of labor in all of the surrounding villages. If
agriculture was unprofitable, it was not because laborers demanded
excessive wages, but because of the low productivity of the land. The
significance of contemporary complaints of high wages is missed if
they are interpreted as an indication of an exorbitant increase in
wages. The facts are, rather, that land was so unproductive that
farmers could not afford to pay even a low wage.

If it were necessary to argue the point further, it could be pointed
out that wages even in industry were not subject to that steady rise
which would have to be assumed, if high wages are to furnish the
explanation of the substitution of pasture for tillage from the
thirteenth century to the eighteenth. The statistical data on this
subject are fragmentary, but Thorold Rogers' calculations for the
period 1540-1582 are significant. In this period wages rose 60 per
cent above the average of the previous century and a half; but the
market prices of farm produce rose 170 per cent.[33] The rise in wages
was far from keeping pace with the rise in selling prices, and the
displacement of agriculture for grazing at this time must be due to
some cause other than the greater number of laborers needed in
agriculture. If, during certain periods within the four centuries
under consideration wages advanced more rapidly than the prices of
produce (statistical information on this subject is lacking) the
continuous withdrawal of land from tillage during periods when wages
fell remains to be explained by some cause other than high wages. Nor
can high wages account for the conversion of tilled land to pasture
simultaneously with the conversion of pasture land to tillage in the
seventeenth century.

If wages were exorbitantly high in the seventeenth century, and if
this is the reason for the laying to pasture of so much arable, how
could farmers afford to cultivate the large amount of fresh land which
they were bringing under the plow? Is this accounted for not by any
expectation of profit from this land but by the statutory requirement
that no arable should be laid to pasture unless an equal amount of
grass land were plowed in its stead? Pasture in excess of the legal
requirements was plowed up, and persons who did not wish to convert
any arable to pasture are found increasing their tilled land by
bringing grass land under cultivation. The movement cannot be
explained, therefore, merely on the basis of the husbandry statutes.
Nor is the law itself to be dismissed without further examination, for
in it we find the explicit statement that fresh land could be
substituted for that then under cultivation, because common-field land
was in many cases exhausted; it was therefore better to allow this to
be laid to grass while better land was cultivated in its place.[34]
Here then, is the simple explanation of the whole problem. The land
which was converted from arable to pasture was worn out; but there was
fresh land available for tillage, and some of this was brought under

No alternative explanation can be worked out on the basis of
hypothetical wage or price movements. The historian is indeed at
liberty to form his own theories as to the trend of prices in the
seventeenth century, for he is unhampered by the existence of known
records such as those for the sixteenth century; but it is impossible
to construct any theory of prices which will explain why the
conversion of arable land to pasture continued at a time when much
pasture land was being plowed up. It is necessary to choose a theory
of prices which will explain either the extension of tillage or the
extension of pasture; both cannot be explained by the same prices. If,
as some historians assume, the increase of population or some such
factor was causing a comparatively rapid increase in the price of
grain in this period, the continued conversion of arable to pasture
requires explanation. If, as Miss Leonard supposes, the contrary
assumption is true, and the products of arable land could be sold to
less advantage than those of pasture, then the cause of the conversion
of pasture to arable must be sought.

It is not only in the seventeenth century that this double conversion
movement took place. In the second half of the fourteenth century
pastures were being plowed up. At Holway, 1376-1377, three plots of
land which had been pasture were converted to arable.[35] In this
period much land was withdrawn from cultivation. The explanation
usually advanced by historians for the conversion of arable to pasture
at this time is that the scarcity of labor since the Black Death (a
quarter of a century before) made it impossible to cultivate the land
as extensively as when wages were low, or when serf labor was
available. If this is the whole case, it is difficult to account for
the conversion to arable of land already pasture. Other factors than
the supposed scarcity of labor were involved; land in good condition,
such as the plots of pasture at Holway, repaid cultivation, but the
yield was too low on land exhausted by centuries of cultivation to
make tillage profitable.

In the sixteenth century, also, the restoration of cultivation on land
which had formerly been converted from arable to pasture was going on.
Fitzherbert devotes several chapters of his treatise on surveying to a
discussion of the methods of amending "ley grounde, the whiche hath
ben errable lande of late," (ch. 27) and "bushy ground and mossy that
hath ben errable lande of olde time" (ch. 28). This land should be
plowed and sown, and it will produce much grain, "with littell
dongynge, and sow it no lengar tha it will beare plentye of corne,
withoute donge", and then lay it down to grass again. Tusser also
describes this use of land alternately as pasture and arable.[36] A
farmer on one of the manors of William, First Earl of Pembroke, had an
enclosed field in 1567, which afforded pasture for 900 sheep as well
as an unspecified number of cattle, "_qui aliquando seminatur,
aliquando iacet ad pasturam_."[37] The motives of this alternating use
of the land would be clear enough, even though they were not
explicitly stated by contemporaries; arable land which would produce
only scant crops unless heavily manured made good pasture, and after a
longer or shorter period under grass, was so improved by the manure of
the sheep pasturing on it and by the heavy sod which formed that it
could be tilled profitably, and was therefore restored to tillage.

The fact of two opposite but simultaneous conversion movements is
unaccountable under the accepted hypothesis of the causes of the
enclosure movement, which turns upon assumptions as to the relative
prices of grain and wool or cattle or wages. The authorities for this
theory have necessarily neglected the evidence that pasture land was
converted to arable in the sixteenth century and that arable land was
converted to pasture in the seventeenth, and have separated in time
two tendencies which were simultaneous. They have described the
increase in pasturage at the expense of arable in the early period,
and the increase of arable at the expense of pasture in the later
period, and have explained a difference between the two periods which
did not exist by a change in the ratio between the prices of wool and
grain for which no proof is given.

It has been shown in this chapter that the conversion of arable to
pasture in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries cannot have been
caused by increased demand for wool, since the price of wool
relatively to that of grain fell, and the extension of tillage rather
than of pasture would have taken place had price movements been the
chief factor influencing the conversion of land from one use to the
other. It has also been shown that the conversion of arable to
pasture did not cease at the beginning of the seventeenth century. If
the principal cause of the enclosure movement had been the increasing
demand for wool, this cause would have ceased to operate when time had
elapsed for the shifting of enough land from tillage to pasture to
increase the supply of wool. That the conversion of arable to pasture
did not cease after a reasonable time had passed is an indication that
its cause was not the demand for wool. When it is found that pasture
was being converted to arable at the same time that other land was
withdrawn from cultivation and laid to grass, the insufficiency of the
accepted explanation of the enclosure movement is made even more
apparent. A change in the price of wool could at best explain the
conversion in one direction only. The theory that the cause of the
enclosure movement was the high price of wool must be rejected, and a
more critical study must be made of the readjustments in the use of
land which became conspicuous in the fourteenth century, but which are
overlooked in the orthodox account of the enclosure movement.


[12] Levett and Ballard, _The Black Death on the Estates of the See of
Winchester_ (Oxford, 1916), p. 142.

[13] Smyth, _Lives of the Berkeleys_ (Gloucester, 1883), vol. i, pp.

[14] (Oxford, 1866-1902), vols. i, iv.

[15] Increase in manufacture of woollen cloth constituted no increase
in the demand for wool in so far as exports of raw wool were reduced.

[16] _Royal Historical Soc. Trans._, N. S. (1905), vol. ix, p. 101, note 2.

[17] Denton, _England in the Fifteenth Century_, p. 159.

[18] Gay, _Quarterly Journal of Economics_ (1902-1903), vol. xvii, p. 587.

[19] Pollard, _Reign of Henry VII_ (London, 1913), vol. ii, pp. 235-237.

[20] More, _Utopia_ (Everyman edition), p. 23.

[21] _Ibid._, p. 24.

[22] _Outlines of the Economic History of England_ (London, 1908), p. 118.

[23] _Growth of Eng. Ind. and Commerce_ (Cambridge, 1892), p. 180.

[24] _England's Industrial Development_ (London, 1912), p. 247.

[25] _English Economic History_ (New York, 1893), part ii, p. 262.

[26] Carew, _Survey of Cornwall_ (London, 1814), p. 77.

[27] Cunningham, _Growth of English Industry and Commerce, Modern
Times_, 1903, part i, p. 101.

[28] Lennard, _Rural Northamptonshire_ (Oxford, 1916), p. 87. For
other examples, _cf. infra_, pp. 84, 99-101.

[29] Leonard, _Royal Hist. Soc. Trans._, 1905. Gonner in _Common Land
and Inclosure_ covers much the same ground, but does not bring out as
clearly the extent to which the seventeenth century enclosures were
accompanied by conversion of tilled land to pasture.

[30] Tawney, _Agrarian Problem in the Sixteenth Cen._ (London, 1912), p.

[31] _Royal Hist. Soc. Trans._ (1905), vol xix, note 1, p. 113.

[32] _Ibid._, pp. 116-117.

[33] Rogers, _History of Agriculture and Prices_, vol. iv, p. 757.

[34] _Cf. infra_, p. 98.

[35] Levett and Ballard, _The Black Death_, p. 129.

[36] _Cf. infra_, p. 82.

[37] Tawney, _op. cit._, p. 220, note 1.

[38] _Infra_, p. 78, 81, 98-9.



Up to this point attention has been given chiefly to the theory that
the enclosure movement waxed and waned in response to supposed
fluctuations in the relative prices of wool and grain, and it has been
found that this theory is untenable. It is now necessary to consider
more closely the true cause of the conversion of arable land to
pasture--the declining productivity of the soil--and the cause of the
restoration of this land to cultivation--the restoration of its

The connection between soil fertility and the system of husbandry has
been explained by Dr. Russell, of the Rothamsted Experiment Station:

     Virgin land covered with its native vegetation appears to alter
     very little and very slowly in composition. Plants spring up,
     assimilate the soil nitrates, phosphates, potassium salts, etc.,
     and make considerable quantities of nitrogenous and other organic
     compounds: then they die and all this material is added to the
     soil. Nitrogen-fixing bacteria also add to the stores of nitrogen
     compounds. But, on the other hand, there are losses: some of the
     added substances are dissipated as gas by the decomposition
     bacteria, others are washed away in the drainage water. These
     losses are small in poor soils, but they become greater in rich
     soils, and they set a limit beyond which accumulation of material
     cannot go. Thus a virgin soil does not become indefinitely rich
     in nitrogenous and other organic compounds, but reaches an
     equilibrium level where the annual gains are offset by the
     annual losses so that no net change results. This equilibrium
     level depends on the composition of the soil, its position, the
     climate, etc, and it undergoes a change if any of these factors
     alter. But for practical purposes it may be regarded as fairly

     When, however, the virgin soil is broken up by the plough and
     brought into cultivation the native vegetation and the crop are
     alike removed, and therefore the sources of gain are considerably
     reduced. The losses, on the other hand, are much intensified.
     Rain water more readily penetrates, carrying dissolved substances
     with it: biochemical decompositions also proceed. In consequence
     the soil becomes poorer, and finally it is reduced to the same
     level as the rate of gain of nitrogenous matter. A new and lower
     equilibrium level is now reached about which the composition of
     the soil remains fairly constant; this is determined by the same
     factors as the first, _i. e._ the composition of the soil,
     climate, etc.

     Thus each soil may vary in composition and therefore in fertility
     between two limits: a higher limit if it is kept permanently
     covered with vegetation such as grass, and a lower limit if it is
     kept permanently under the plough. These limits are set by the
     nature of the soil and the climate, but the cultivator can attain
     any level he likes between them simply by changing his mode of
     husbandry. The lower equilibrium level is spoken of as the
     inherent fertility of the soil because it represents the part of
     the fertility due to the soil and its surroundings, whilst the
     level actually reached in any particular case is called its
     condition or "heart", the land being in "good heart "or "bad
     heart", according as the cultivator has pushed the actual level
     up or not; this part of the fertility is due to the cultivator's

     The difference between the higher and lower fertility level is
     not wholly a question of percentage of nitrogen, carbon, etc. At
     its highest level the soil possesses a good physical texture
     owing to the flocculation of the clay and the arrangement of the
     particles: it can readily be got into the fine tilth needed for a
     seed bed. But when it has run down the texture becomes very
     unsatisfactory. Much calcium carbonate is also lost during the
     process: and when this constituent falls too low, the soil
     becomes "sour" and unsuited for crops.

     The simplest system of husbandry is that of continuous wheat
     cultivation, practiced under modern conditions in new countries.
     When the virgin land is first broken up its fertility is high; so
     long as it remains under cultivation this level can no longer be
     maintained, but rapidly runs down. During this degradation
     process considerable quantities of plant food become available
     and a succession of crops can be raised without any substitution
     of manure ... After a time the unstable period is over and the
     new equilibrium level is reached at which the soil will stop if
     the old husbandry continues. In this final state the soil is
     often not fertile enough to allow of the profitable raising of
     crops; it is now starving for want of those very nutrients that
     were so prodigally dissipated in the first days of its
     cultivation, and the cultivator starves with it or moves on.

     Fortunately recovery is by no means impossible, though it may be
     prolonged. It is only necessary to leave the land covered with
     vegetation for a period of years when it will once again regain
     much of the nitrogenous organic matter it has lost.[39]

Dr. Russell adds that soil-exhaustion is essentially a modern
phenomenon, however, and gives the following reasons for supposing
that the medieval system conserved the fertility of the soil. First,
the cattle grazed over a wide area and the arable land all received
some dung. Thus elements of fertility were transferred from the
pasture land to the smaller area of tilled land. This process, he
admits, involved the impoverishment of the pasture land, but only very
slowly, and the fertility of the arable was in the meanwhile
maintained. Secondly, the processes of liming and marling the soil
were known, and by these means the necessary calcium carbonate was
supplied. Thirdly, although there was insufficient replacement of the
phosphates taken from the soil, the yield of wheat was so low that the
amount of phosphoric acid removed was small, and the system was
permanent for all practical purposes. One of the facts given in
substantiation of this view is that the yield after enclosure
increased considerably.[40]

In discussing these points, it will be well to begin with the evidence
as to exhaustion afforded by the increased yield under enclosure. The
improvement in yield took place because of the long period of fallow
obtained when the land was used as pasture; or, in the eighteenth
century, with the increase in nitrogenous organic matter made possible
when hay and turnips were introduced as field forage crops. That is,
the increase in yield depended either upon that prolonged period of
recuperation which will _restore fertility_, or upon an actual
increase in the amount of manure used. Apparently, then, open-field
land had become exhausted, since an increase in yield could be
obtained by giving it a rest, without improving the methods of
cultivation, etc., or by adding more manure.

There was not, as Dr. Russell supposes, enough manure under the
medieval system of husbandry to maintain the fertility of the soil. It
is true that the husbandman understood the value of manure, and took
care that the land should receive as much as possible, and that he
knew also of the value of lime and marl. But, as Dr. Simkhovitch says:

     It is not within our province to go into agrotechnical details
     and describe what the medieval farmer knew, but seldom practiced
     for lack of time and poor means of communication, in the way of
     liming sour clay ground, etc. Plant production is determined by
     the one of the necessary elements that is available in the least
     quantity. It is a matter of record that the medieval farmer had
     not enough and could not have quite enough manure, to maintain
     the productivity of the soil.[41]

The knowledge of the means of maintaining and increasing the
productivity of the soil is one thing, but the ability to use this
knowledge is another. The very origin and persistence of the
cumbersome common-field system in so many parts of the world is
sufficient testimony as to the impossibility of improving the quality
of the soil in the Middle Ages. The only way in which these men could
divide the land into portions of equal value was to divide it first
into plots of different qualities and then to give a share in each of
these plots to each member of the community. They never dreamed of
being able to bring the poor plots up to a high level of productivity
by the use of plentiful manuring, etc., but had to accept the
differences in quality as they found them. The inconvenience and
confusion of the common-field system were endured because, under the
circumstances, it was the only possible system.

Very few cattle were kept. No more were kept because there was no way
of keeping them. In the fields wheat, rye, oats, barley and beans were
raised, but no hay and no turnips. Field grasses and clover which
could be introduced in the course of field crops were unknown. What
hay they had came entirely from the permanent meadows, the low-lying
land bordering the banks of streams. "Meadow grass," writes Dr.
Simkhovitch, "could grow only in very definite places on low and moist
land that followed as a rule the course of a stream. This gave the
meadow a monopolistic value, which it lost after the introduction of
grass and clover in the rotation of crops."[42] The number of cattle
and sheep kept by the community was limited by the amount of forage
available for winter feeding. Often no limitation upon the number
pastured in summer in the common pastures was necessary other than
that no man should exceed the number which he was able to keep during
the winter. The meadow hay was supplemented by such poor fodder as
straw and the loppings of trees, and the cattle were got through the
winter with the smallest amount of forage which would keep them alive,
but even with this economy it was impossible to keep a sufficient

The amount of stall manure produced in the winter was of course small,
on account of the scant feed, and even the more plentiful manure of
the summer months was the property of the lord, so that the villain
holdings received practically no dung. The villains were required to
send their cattle and sheep at night to a fold which was moved at
frequent intervals over the demesne land, and their own land received
ordinarily no dressing of manure excepting the scant amount produced
when the village flocks pastured on the fallow fields.

The supply of manure, insufficient in any case to maintain the
fertility of the arable land, was diminishing rather than increasing.
As Dr. Russell suggested in the passage referred to above, the
continuous use of pastures and meadows causes a deterioration in their
quality. The quantity of fodder was decreasing for this reason, almost
imperceptibly, but none the less seriously. Fewer cattle could be kept
as the grass land deteriorated, and the small quantity of manure which
was available for restoring the productivity of the open fields was
gradually decreasing for this reason.

Soil exhaustion went on during the Middle Ages not because the
cultivators were careless or ignorant of the fact that manure is
needed to maintain fertility, but because this means of improving the
soil was not within their reach. They used what manure they had and
marled the soil when they had the time and could afford it, but, as
the centuries passed, the virgin richness of the soil was exhausted
and crops diminished.

The only crops which are a matter of statistical record are those
raised on the demesne land of those manors managed for their owners by
bailiffs who made reports of the number of acres sown and the size of
the harvest. These crops were probably greater than those reaped from
average land, as it is reasonable to suppose that the demesne land was
superior to that held by villains in the first place, and as it
received better care, having the benefit of the sheep fold and of such
stall manure as could be collected. Even if it were possible to form
an accurate estimate of the average yield of demesne land, then, we
should have an over-estimate for the average yield of ordinary
common-field land. No accurate estimate of the average yield even of
demesne land can be made, however, on the basis of the few entries
regarding the yield of land which have been printed. Variations in
yield from season to season and from manor to manor in the same season
are so great that nothing can be inferred as to the general average in
any one season, nor as to the comparative productivity in different
periods, from the materials at hand. For instance, at Downton, one of
the Winchester manors, the average yield of wheat between 1346 and
1353 was 6.5 bushels per acre, but this average includes a yield of
3.5 bushels in 1347 and one of 14 bushels in 1352,[43] showing that no
single year gives a fair indication of the average yield of the
period. For the most part the data available apply to areas too small
and to periods too brief to give more than the general impression that
the yield of land was very low.

In the thirteenth century Walter of Henley and the writer of the
anonymous _Husbandry_ are authorities for the opinion that the average
yield of wheat land should be about ten bushels per acre.[44] At
Combe, Oxfordshire, about the middle of the century, the average yield
during several seasons was only 5 bushels.[45] About 1300, the fifty
acres of demesne planted with wheat at Forncett yielded about
five-fold or 10 bushels an acre (five seasons).[46] Between 1330 and
1340, the average yield (500 acres for three seasons), at ten manors
of the Merton College estates was also 10 bushels.[47] At Hawsted,
where about 60 acres annually were sown with wheat, the average yield
for three seasons at the end of the fourteenth century was a little
more than 7-1/2 bushels an acre.[48]

Statistical data so scattered as this cannot be used as the basis of
an inquiry into the rate of soil exhaustion. Where the normal
variation from place to place and from season to season is as great as
it is in agriculture, the material from which averages are constructed
must be unusually extensive. So far as I know, no material in this
field entirely satisfactory for statistical purposes is accessible at
the present time. There is, however, one manor, Witney, for which
important data for as many as eighteen seasons between 1200 and 1400
have been printed. A second suggestive source of information is Gras's
table of harvest statistics for the whole Winchester group of manors,
covering three different seasons, separated from each other by
intervals of about a century. The acreage reported for the Winchester
manors is so extensive that the average yield of the group can be
fairly taken to be the average for all of that part of England.
Moreover, Witney seems to be representative of the Winchester group,
if the fact that the yield at Witney is close to the group average in
the years when this is known can be relied upon as an indication of
its representativeness in the years when the group average is not
known. The average yield for all the manors in 1208-1209 was 4-1/3
bushels per acre; for Witney alone, 3-2/3. In 1396-1397 the yield of
the group and the yield at Witney are, respectively, 6 and 6-1/4
bushels per acre.[49]

Table III shows the yield of wheat on the manors of the Bishopric of
Winchester in the years 1209, 1300 and 1397. If it could be shown that
these were representative years, we should have a means of measuring
the increase or decrease in productivity in these two centuries. Some
indication of the representativeness of the years 1300 and 1397 is
given by a comparison of prices for these years with the average
prices of the period in which they lie. The price in 1300 was about 17
per cent below the average for the period 1291-1310,[50] an indication
that the crop of nine bushels per acre reaped in 1299-1300 was above
the normal. The price of wheat in 1397 was very slightly above the
average for the period;[51] six bushels an acre or more, then, was
probably a normal crop at the end of the fourteenth century. This
conclusion is supported also by the fact that the yield in that year
at Witney was approximately the same as the average of the eleven
seasons between 1340 and 1354 noted in Table V. The price of wheat in
the year 1209-1210 is not ascertainable. Walter of Henley's statement
that the price of corn must be higher than the average to prevent loss
when the return for seed sown was only three-fold[52] is an
indication that the normal yield must have been at this time at least
three-fold, or six bushels, so that the extremely low yield of the
year 1208-1209 can hardly be considered typical. This examination of
the yield in the three seasons shown in the table gives these results:
at the beginning of the thirteenth century the average yield was
probably about six bushels and certainly not more than ten; at the
beginning of the fourteenth century the average was less than nine
bushels--how much less, whether more or less than six bushels, is not
known--at the end of the fourteenth century the yield was about six



                  _Area sown_         _Produce_          _Ratio produce_
    _Date_          _Acres_       _Bushels per acre_        _to seed_

    1208-1209        6838               4-1/3                 2-1/3
    1299-1300        3353               9[54]                 4
    1396-1397        2366-1/2           6                     3



               _Wheat_       _Mancorn and Rye_        _Barley_
    1208-1209    5108               492                 1500
    1299-1300    2410               175                  800



    _Date_       _Bushels per acre_         _Acres sown_
    1209               3-2/3                     417
    1277               8-1/2                     180
    1278               ...                       191
    1283               8-1/2                     ...
    1284              10-1/2                     ...
    1285               7-1/4                     ...
    1300              (7-10)                     ...
    1340               5-1/2                     126
    1341               7-1/2                     138
    1342               6                         132
    1344               ...                       129
    1346               5-1/2                     127
    1347               6-1/2                     128
    1348               6-3/4                     138
    1349               4-3/4                     128
    1350               5-1/4                     ...
    1351               6-1/2                     ...
    1352               8-1/2                     ...
    1353               5                         ...
    1397               6-1/4                      51-1/2

The yield of the soil in single seasons at widely separated intervals
is a piece of information of little value for our purpose. These
tables reveal other facts of greater significance. The yield for the
year gives almost no information about the normal yield over a series
of years, but the area planted depends very largely upon that yield.
The farmer knows that it will pay, on the average, to sow a certain
number of acres, and the area under cultivation is not subject to
violent fluctuations, as is the crop reaped. The area sown in any
season is representative of the period; the crop reaped may or may
not be representative. Land which, over a series of years, fails to
produce enough to pay for cultivation is no longer planted. If the
fertility of the soil is declining, this is shown by the gradual
withdrawal from cultivation of the less productive land, as it is
realized that it produces so little that it no longer pays to till it.
Table IV shows that in fact this withdrawal of worn out land from
cultivation was actually taking place. The area sown with wheat on the
twenty-five manors for which the statistics for both periods are
available was reduced by more than fifty per cent between the
beginning and the end of the thirteenth century. A similar reduction
in the area planted with all of the other crops, mancorn, rye, barley
and oats, took place. A process of selection was going on which
eliminated the less fertile land from cultivation. If six bushels an
acre was necessary to pay the costs of tillage, land which returned
less than six bushels could not be kept under the plow. The six bushel
crop which seems to be normal in the fourteenth century is not the
average yield of all of that land which had been under cultivation at
an earlier time, but only of the better grades of land. Plots which
had formerly yielded their five or six bushels an acre had become too
barren to produce the bare minimum which made tillage profitable, and
their produce no longer appeared in the average. Even with the
elimination of the worst grades of land the average yield fell,
because the better land, too, was becoming less fertile. At Witney
(Table V) the area planted with wheat fell from about 180 acres in
1277 to less than 140 acres in 1340; but, in spite of this reduction
in the amount of land cultivated, the average annual yield after 1340
was less than 6-1/2 bushels, while it had been about 8-1/2 bushels per
acre in the period 1277-1285. This withdrawal of land from cultivation
took place without the occurrence of any such calamity as the Black
Death, which is ordinarily mentioned as the cause of the reduction of
arable land to pasture in so far as this took place before 1400. It
affords an indirect proof of the fact that much land was becoming

These statistical indications of declining productivity of the soil
are supported by the overwhelming evidence of the poverty of the
fourteenth century peasantry--poverty which can be explained only by
the barrenness of their land. Many of the features of the agrarian
changes of this period are familiar--the substitution of money
payments for villain services, the frequency of desertion, the
amalgamation and leasing of bond-holdings, the subdividing and
leasing of the demesne. A point which has not been dwelt upon is the
favorable pecuniary terms upon which the villains commuted their
services. Where customary relations were replaced by a new bargain,
the bargain was always in favor of the tenant. What was the source of
this strategic advantage of the villain? The great number of holdings
made vacant by the Black Death and the scarcity of eligible holders
placed the landowner at a disadvantage, but this situation was
temporary. How can the difficulty of filling vacant tenements before
the Black Death be accounted for, and why were villains still able to
secure reductions in their rents a generation after its effects had
ceased to be felt?

Even before the Black Death, it was frequently the case that villain
holdings could be filled only by compulsion. The difficulty in finding
tenants did not originate in the decrease in the population caused by
the pestilence. There is little evidence that there was a lack of men
qualified to hold land even after the Black Death, but it is certain
that they sought in every way possible to avoid land-holding. The
villains who were eligible in many cases fled, so that it became
exceedingly difficult to fill a tenement when once it became vacant.
Land whose holders died of the pestilence was still without tenants
twenty-five and thirty years later, although persistent attempts had
been made to force men to take it up. When compulsion succeeded only
in driving men away from the manor, numerous concessions were made in
the attempt to make land-holding more attractive. It is important to
notice that these concessions were economic, not social. The force
which was driving men away was not the desire to escape the incidents
of serfdom, but the impossibility of making a living from holdings
burdened with heavy rents. These burdens were eased, grudgingly,
little by little, by landlords who had exhausted other methods of
keeping their land from being deserted. It was necessary to reduce
the rent in some way in order to permit the villains to live. The
produce of a customary holding was no longer sufficient to maintain
life and to allow the holder to render the services and pay the rent
which had been fixed in an earlier century when the soil was more

Notices of vacated holdings date from before 1220 on the estates of
the Berkeleys. Thomas the First was lord of Berkeley between 1220 and
1243, and

     Such were the tymes for the most part whilest this Lord Thomas
     sate Lord, That many of his Tenants in divers of his manors ...
     surrendred up and least their lands into his hands because they
     were not able to pay the rent and doe the services, which also
     often happened in the tyme of his elder brother the Lord

This entry in the chronicle is significant, for it is typical of
conditions on many other manors at a later date. The tenants were not
able to pay the rent and do the services, and therefore gave up the
land. It was leased, when men could be found to take it at all, at a
rent lower than that which its former holders had found so oppressive.
It is interesting to note that much of this land was soon after
enclosed and converted to pasture, more than a century before the
event which is supposed to mark the beginning of the enclosure
movement. The productivity of the land had declined; its holders were
no longer able to pay the customary rent, and the lord had to content
himself with lower rents; the productivity was so low in some cases
that the land was fit only for sheep pasture.

Land holding was regarded as a misfortune in the fourteenth century.
The decline in fertility had made it impossible for a villain to
support himself and his family and perform the accustomed services and
pay the rent for his land. Sometimes heirs were excused on account of
their poverty. Page has made note of the prevailing custom of fining
these heirs for the privilege of refusing the land:

     In 1340 J. F., who held a messuage and half a virgate, had to pay
     two shillings for permission to give up the land, because he was
     unable to render the services due from it. Three other men at the
     same time paid six pence each not to be compelled to take up
     customary land ... at Woolston, 1340, R. G. gave up his messuage
     and half virgate because he could not render the necessary
     services; whereupon T. S. had to pay three shillings three pence
     that he might not be forced to take the holding, and another
     villain paid six shillings eight pence for the same thing.[58]

Miss Levett mentions the fact that cases were fairly frequent at the
Winchester manors in the fourteenth century where a widow or next of
kin refused to take up land on account of poverty or impotence;[59]
and three villains of Forncett gave up their holdings before 1350 on
account of their poverty.[60]

In case no one could be found who would willingly take up the land,
the method of compulsion was tried. The responsibility for providing a
tenant in these cases seems to have been shifted to the whole
community. A villain chosen by the whole homage had to take up the
land. At Crawley in 1315 there were two such cases. A fine was paid by
one villain for a cottage and ten acres "_que devenerunt in manus
domini tanquam escheata pro defectu tenentium & ad que eligebatur per
totam decenuam_." At Twyford in 13433-1344, J. paid a fine for a
messuage and a half virgate of land, "_ad que idem Johannes electus
est per totum homagium_."[61] In other entries cited by Page, the
element of compulsion is unmistakable: the new holder of land is
described as "_electus per totum homagium ad hoc compulsus_," a phrase
which is frequently found also in the entries of fines paid on some of
the Winchester manors after the Black Death.[62]

This method of compulsion was useful to some extent, but there were
limits beyond which it could not be pushed. Five men of Therfield in
1351 were ordered to take up customary land, and several of them left
the manor rather than obey. "_Vendiderunt quod habuerunt et
recesserunt nocitante._"[63] At Nailesbourne, in the same year,
"_Robertus le Semenour compulsus finivit et clam recessit et ea tenere
recusavit_."[64] The problem which confronted landowners during the
Black Death was not so much an absolute lack of men on the manors, as
a stubborn unwillingness on the part of these men to hold land. There
were enough men left by the pestilence, but they were determined to
avoid taking up the tenements whose holders had died. The pressure
which was brought upon the villains to induce them to take up land and
to prevent them from leaving the manor could not prevent the
desertions, which had begun before the pestilence, and which took away
the men who would naturally have supplied the places of those who
died. The whole village must have been anxious to prevent the
desertion of these men, for the community was held responsible for the
services from vacant tenements, when they failed to provide a tenant.
At Meon, for instance, each of twenty-six tenants paid 1 _d._ in
place of works due from a vacant holding, according to an arrangement
which had been made before the Black Death,[65] and at Burwell, in
1350, when three villains left the manor, their land was "_tradita
toto homagio ad faciendum servicia et consuetudines_."[66] In spite of
the deterring force which must have been exerted by public opinion
under these conditions, and in spite of the aggressive measures taken
by bailiffs to prevent desertion and to recapture those who had fled,
the records are full of the names of those who had been successful in
making their escape. Throughout the latter half of the fourteenth
century and the first part of the fifteenth there was a gradual
leakage from the Winchester manors. "Villeins were apt 'to go away
secretly' and to be no more found."[67] Page describes a similar
tendency on the part of villains of the manors whose records he has
examined. At Weston, three villains deserted in 1354. At Woolston in
1357 a serf "_recessit a dominio et dereliquit terram suam_." At
Chilton, between 1356 and 1359, eleven men and two women fled, some of
whom were recaptured. At Therfield in 1369 a man who held twenty-three
acres of land fled with his whole family. In the same year at Abbot's
Ripton a man escaped with his horses, and three years later another
villain left Weston by night.[68] At Forncett, "Before 1378 from 60 to
70 tenements had fallen into the lord's hands. It was the serfs
especially who were relinquishing their land; for a larger proportion
of the tenements charged with week-work were abandoned than of the
more lightly burdened tenements."[69] This, of course, is what we should
expect, as the lighter burdens of these holdings caused their tenants to
feel less severely than the ordinary serfs the declining productivity of
the land.

The method of compulsion failed to keep the tenants on the land. They
ran off, and the holdings remained vacant. It was necessary to make
concessions of a material nature in order to persuade men to take up
land or to keep what they had. They were excused of a part of their
services in some cases, and in others all of the services were
definitely commuted for small sums of money. When no tenants for
vacant land could be secured who would perform the customary services
due from it, the bailiff was forced to commute them. "'So and so holds
such land for rent, because no one would hold it for works,' is a
fairly frequent entry both before and after 1349," on the records of
the Bishopric of Winchester. The important point to be noticed here is
that the money rent paid in these cases was always less than the value
of the services which had formerly been exacted from the land; not
only that, it was less than the money equivalent for which those
services had sometimes been commuted, an amount far less than the
market value of the services in the fourteenth century at the
prevailing rates of wages. For instance, when Roger Haywood took up
three virgates and a cotland at a money rent instead of for the
traditional services, "_quia nullus tenere voluit_," he contracted to
pay rents whose total sum amounted to less than twenty-five shillings
and included the church scot for one virgate and the cotland. On this
manor, Sutton, the total services of _one_ virgate valued at the rate
at which they were ordinarily "sold" must have amounted to at least
eighteen or twenty shillings. At Wargrave the services of thirty-two
virgates were all commuted at three shillings each, and the same sum
was paid by each of twenty-three virgates at Waltham.[70]

At Forncett and on the manors of the Berkeley estates commutation had
little part in the disappearance of labor dues. The vacated land was
leased in larger or smaller parcels at the best rents which could be
obtained. This rent bore no relation to the value of the services
formerly due from the land. The customary tenements which had been the
units upon which labor dues were assessed were broken up, and the
acres leased separately, or in new combinations, to other men.[71] At
Forncett, as in the case of the Winchester manors where the services
were commuted, the terms of the new arrangement can be compared with
those of the old, and it is seen that the money rent obtained was less
than the value of the services formerly due. The customary services
were here valued at over two shillings per acre; the average rent
obtained was less than one shilling an acre. The net pecuniary result
of the change, then, was the same as though the services had been
commuted for money at less than their value.

Another method of reducing rents in this period was the remission of a
part of the services due. Miss Levett notes the extent to which this
took place on the Winchester manors, and suggests that the Bishop
wished to avoid the wastefulness and inefficiency of serf labor.[72]
She overlooks the fact that he failed to exact the money payment in
place of the services for which manorial custom provided. It was a
well established custom that in case work owed by the tenants was not
used they should pay money instead. The amount of work needed each
year on the demesne varied according to the size of the harvest, etc.,
but the number of days' works for which the tenants was liable was
fixed. The surplus of works owed above those needed were "sold" each
year to the villains. Frequently the number of works sold exceeded the
number performed, although formal commutation of dues had not taken
place. At Nailesbourne (1348-1349), 4755 works were due from the
villains, but nearly 4000 of these were sold.[73] If the Bishop had
merely wished to avoid waste, then, in ceasing to require the
performance of villain services on his manors, he would have required
the payment of the money equivalent of these services. When the
services were excused, and the customary alternative of a money
payment also, the change was clearly an intentional reduction in the
burden of villain tenure. This fact makes emphasis upon the payment of
money as the distinguishing feature of the changed relations between
landlord and tenant in this period misleading. There was every
precedent for requiring a money payment in the place of services not
wanted. When, therefore, a great many services were simply allowed to
lapse, it is an indication that it was impossible to exact the
payment. It makes little difference whether the services were commuted
at a lower rate than that at which they had formerly been "sold" or
whether the villain was simply held accountable for a smaller number
of services at the old rate; in either case the rent was reduced, and
the burden of the tenant was less.

The reduction of rent is thus the characteristic and fundamental
feature of all of the changes of land tenure during this period. This
fact is ignored by historians who suppose the chief factor in the
commutation movement to have been the desire of prosperous villains to
rid themselves of the degrading marks of serfdom. Vinogradoff, for
instance, in his preface to the monograph from which most of the
foregoing illustrations have been drawn, has nothing at all to say of
the reduction of rent and the poverty of the tenants when he is
speaking of the various circumstances attending the introduction of
money payments.

     In the particular case under discussion the cultural policy of
     William of Wykeham may have suggested arrangements in commutation
     of labour services and rents in kind. In other cases similar
     results were connected with war expenditures and town life. In so
     far the initiative in selling services came from the class of
     landowners. But there were powerful tendencies at work in the
     life of the peasants which made for the same result. The most
     comprehensive of these tendencies was connected, it seems to me,
     with the accumulation of capital in the hands of the villains
     under a system of customary dues. When rents and services became
     settled and lost their elasticity, roughly speaking, in the
     course of the twelfth, thirteenth, and fourteenth centuries, the
     surplus of profits from agriculture was bound to collect in the
     hands of those who received them directly from the soil, and it
     was natural for these first receivers to turn the proceeds
     primarily towards an improvement of their social condition; the
     redemption of irksome services was a conspicuous manifestation of
     this policy.[74]

This paragraph contains several suggestions which are shown to be
misleading by a study of the extracts from the original sources
embodied in the essay of whose preface it forms a part. It is true
that the cultural policy of William of Wykeham was an extravagant one,
and that he was in need of money when the system of tenure was being
revolutionized on his estates; but it is misleading to interpret the
changes which took place as measures for the prompt conversion into
cash of the episcopal revenues. No radical changes in the system of
payment were necessary in order to secure cash, for the system of
selling surplus services to the villains had become established
decades before the time of this bishop, and no formal commutation of
services was necessary in order to convert the labor dues of the
villains into payments in money. The bulk of the services were not
performed, even before commutation, and the lord received money for
the services not used on the demesne. The essential feature of the
changes which took place was a reduction in the amount paid--a
reduction which the bishop must have resisted so far as he dared, just
as other landowners must have resisted the reductions which their
tenants forced them to make at a time when they were in need of money.
The commutation of services was incidental, and was only a slight
modification of the system formerly in use, but, whether services were
commuted or were in part excused, the result was a lessening of the
burden borne by the tenant, and the reduction of the rent received by
the lord.

It is true, as Professor Vinogradoff states, that there were powerful
tendencies in the life of the peasants which made for this result. In
fact no initiative in selling services--at these rates--could have
come from the side of the landowners. The change was forced upon them.
Unless they compromised with their tenants and reduced their rents
they soon found vacant tenements on their hands which no one could be
compelled to take. The amount of land which was finally leased at low
rents because the former holders had died or run away and no one could
be forced to take it at the old rents is evidence of the reluctance
with which landowners accepted the situation and of their inability to
resist the change in the end.

But it is not true that the most comprehensive of these tendencies was
the accumulation of capital in the hands of the villains, and their
desire to improve their social condition. The immediate affect of the
commutation of services and similar changes at this time was to leave
their social condition untouched, whatever the final result may have
been. These villains did not buy themselves free of the marks of
servitude. Their gradual emancipation came for other reasons. At
Witney, for example, where the works of all the native tenants had
been commuted by 1376, they were still required to perform duties of a
servile character:

     they were all to join in haymaking and in washing and shearing
     the lord's sheep, to pay pannage for their pigs, to take their
     turn of service as reeve and tithingman, and to carry the lord's
     victuals and baggage on his departure from Witney as the natives
     were formerly wont to do.[75]

This example, taken at random, is typical of the continuance of
conditions which should make the historian hesitate before adopting
the view that the social condition of the peasants was improved by the
new arrangements made as to the bulk of their services and rents. But
more than that, the terms of the new arrangements are not those which
would be offered by well-to-do cultivators in whose hands the profits
from the soil had accumulated. In all of these cases the new terms
were advantageous to the tenants, not to the lord, and advantageous in
a strictly pecuniary way. The lord had to grant these terms because
the tenants were in the most miserable poverty, and could no longer
pay their accustomed rent.

Neither the Black Death, whose effects were evanescent, nor the desire
of prosperous villains to free themselves of the degrading marks of
serfdom was an important cause in the sequence of agrarian changes
which took place in the fourteenth century. Serfdom as a status was
hardly affected, but a thousand entries record the poverty and
destitution which made it necessary to lighten the economic burdens of
the serfs. At Brightwell, for example, the works of three
half-virgaters were relaxed, the record reads, because of their
poverty (1349-1350).[76] Some villains had no oxen, and were excused
their plowing on this account, or were allowed to substitute manual
labor for carting services.[77] At Weston, in 1370, a tenant "_non
arat terram domini causa paupertate_."[78] At Downton, in 13766-1377,
no money could be collected from the villains in place of the services
they owed in haymaking.[79] Frequently when services were commuted for
money, the record of the fact is accompanied by the statement that the
change was made on account of the poverty of the tenants. At Witney,
for instance, the

     works and services of all the native tenants were commuted at
     fixed payments (_ad certos denarios_) by favour of the lord as
     long as the lord pleases, on account of the poverty of the

The reduction in rent in this case was at least a third of the total.
The value of the customary services commuted was at least ten
shillings six pence per acre, and they were commuted at six shillings
eight pence. Other explicit references to the poverty of the tenants
as the cause of commutation are quoted by Page:

     At Hinton, Berks, the Bailiff reports in 1377, that the former
     lord before his death had commuted the services of the villains
     for money, "eo quod customarii impotentes ad facienda dicta opera
     et pro eorum paupertate" ... At Stevenage, 1354, S. G. "tenuit
     unam vergatam reddendo inde per annum in serviciis et
     consuetudinibus xxii solidos. Et dictus S. G. pauper et impotens
     dictam virgatam tenere. Ideo concessum est per dominum quod S. G.
     habeat et teneat predictam terram reddendo inde xiii solidos iv
     denarios pro omnibus serviciis et consuetudinibus."[81]

In connection with the matter of heriots, also, evidences of extreme
poverty are frequent. Frequently when a tenant died there was no beast
for the lord to seize.

     The heriot of a virgate was generally an ox, or money payment of
     its value. But the amount as often reduced "propter paupertatem,"
     and sometimes when a succeeding tenant could not pay, a half acre
     was deducted from the virgate and held by the lord instead of the

The rate at which the value of these holdings declined when their
tenants possessed too few cattle was rapid. Land without stock is
worthless. The temptation to sell an ox in order to meet the rent was
great, but when the deficiency was due to declining productivity of
the soil, there was no probability that it would be made up the
following year even with all the stock, and with fewer cattle the
situation was hopeless. After this process had gone on for a few years
nothing was left, not even a yoke of oxen for plowing. Whatever means
had been taken to keep up the fertility of the land, attend to the
drainage, _etc._, were of necessity neglected, and finally the hope of
keeping up the struggle was abandoned. The spirit which prompted the
reply of the Chatteris tenant when he was ordered by the manorial
court to put his holding in repair can be understood: "_Non reparavit
tenementum, et dicit quod non vult reparare sed potius dimittere et
abire._"[83] If he left the manor and joined the other men who under
the same circumstances were giving up their land and becoming
fugitives, it was not with the hope of greatly improving his
condition. Some of the fugitives found employment in the towns, but
this was by no means certain, and the records frequently state that
the absent villains had become beggars.[84]

The declining productivity of the soil not only affected the villains,
but reduced the profits of demesne cultivation. It has already been
seen that the acreage under crop was steadily decreasing, as more and
more land reached a stage of barrenness in which it no longer repaid
cultivation. This process is seen from another angle in the frequent
complaints that the customary meals supplied by the lord to serfs
working on the demesne cost more than the labor was worth. According
to Miss Levett:

     This complaint was made on many manors belonging to the Bishop of
     Winchester in spite of the fact that if one may judge from the
     cost of the "Autumn Works" the meals were not very lavish, the
     average cost being 1 _d._ or 1-1/4 _d._ per head for each
     _Precaria_.... The complaint that the system was working at a
     loss comes also from Brightwaltham (Berkshire), Hutton (Essex),
     and from Banstead (Surrey), as early as 1325, and is reflected in
     contemporary literature. "The work is not worth the breakfast"
     (or the _reprisa_) occurs several times in the Winchester Pipe
     Rolls.... By 1376 the entry is considerably more frequent, and
     applies to ploughing as well as to harvest-work.[85] At Meon 64
     acres of ploughing were excused _quia non fecerunt huiusmodi
     arrura causa reprisae_. A similar note occurs at Hambledon
     (_Ecclesia_) and at Fareham with the further information that the
     ploughing was there performed _ad cibum domini_. At Overton four
     virgates were excused their ploughing _quia reprisa excedit

Miss Levett quotes these entries as an explanation for the tendency to
excuse services, forgetting that the lord could usually demand a money
equivalent for services not required for any reason. We have here the
reason why so few services are demanded, but no explanation of the
failure to require money instead. The fundamental cause of the
worthlessness of the labor on the demesne is the fact which accounts
for the absence of a money payment for the work not performed. The
demesne land was worn out, and did not repay costs of cultivation; the
bond land was worn out, and the villains were too poor to "buy" their

The profits of cultivating this unproductive land were so small that a
deficit arose when it was necessary to meet the cost of maintaining
for a few days the men employed on it. It is not surprising that men
who had families to support and were trying to make a living from the
soil abandoned their worthless holdings and left the manor. The lord
had only to meet the expense of food for the laborers during the few
days when they were actually at work plowing the demesne or harvesting
the crop. How could the villain support his whole family during the
entire year on the produce of worse land more scantily manured? In
this low productivity of the land is to be found the reason for the
conversion of much of the demesne into pasture land, as soon as the
supply of servile labor failed. It was, of course, impossible to pay
the wages of free men from the produce of soil too exhausted to repay
even the slight cost incidental to cultivating it with serf labor.
The bailiffs complained of the exorbitant wages demanded by servants
in husbandry; these wages were exorbitant only because the produce of
the land was so small that it was not worth the pains of tillage.

The most important of the many causes which were at work to undermine
the manorial system in the fourteenth century is, therefore, plain.
The productivity of the soil had declined to a point where villain
holdings would no longer support the families which cultivated them
and where demesne land was sometimes not worth cultivation even by
serf labor. Under these conditions, the very basis of the manor was
destroyed. The poverty of the peasants, the difficulty with which
tenants could be found for vacant holdings, even though the greatest
pressure was brought to bear upon eligible villains, and even though
the servile burdens were considerably reduced, and the frequency with
which these serfs preferred the uncertainty and risk of deserting to
the certain destitution and misery of land-holding, are facts which
are intimately connected, and which are all due to the same cause. It
had been impossible to maintain the productive capacity of the land at
a level high enough to provide a living for the tillers of the soil.


[39] E. J. Russell, _The Fertility of the Soil_, Cambridge, 1913, pp.

[40] _Ibid._, pp. 48-52.

[41] _Political Science Quarterly_, vol. xxviii, p. 394.

[42] _Ibid._, p. 393.

[43] Levett and Ballard, _The Black Death_, p. 216.

[44] _Walter of Henley's Husbandry, together with an Anonymous
Husbandry, etc._, ed. by Elizabeth Lamond (London, 1890), pp. 19, 71.

[45] Curtler, _Short History of English Agriculture_, p. 33.

[46] Davenport, _Econ. Dev. of a Norfolk Manor_ (Cambridge, 1906), p. 30.

[47] Rogers, _History of Agriculture, etc._, vol. i, pp. 38-44.

[48] Cullum, _Hawsted_, pp. 215-218.

[49] Unfortunately, the figures for the year 1299-1300 reveal an error
which makes it impossible to use the test of the representativeness of
Witney in a third season with accuracy. The acreage planted is
obviously understated, and it is possible to make only a rough
estimate of the correct acreage. The acceptance of the area given by
Gras (82 acres) results in the conclusion that 22 bushels per acre was
reaped. The suspicion that this result must be incorrect is confirmed
when it is found, also, that 68-1/4 quarters of seed were sown--an
amount sufficient for 270 acres at the average rate of 2 bushels per
acre, or for 220 acres at the rate of 2-1/2 bushels per acre, which
Ballard gives as the rate usual at Witney. (Levett and Ballard, _op.
cit._, p. 192.) In 1277 the acreage sown with wheat at Witney was 180
acres, and in 1278, 191. (_Ibid._, p. 190.) If 3 bushels per acre were
sown in 1299, the area in this year also was 180 acres. If these
estimates are used instead of the figure 82, as indicating the correct
acreage, the yield for the year is found to be between 7 and 10
bushels per acre, in a season in which the average yield for the whole
group of manors was 9 bushels per acre. The figures at Witney in the
three seasons where a comparison with the general average for the
group is possible deviate from it within limits narrow enough to
indicate that conditions at Witney were roughly typical.

[50] Rogers, _History of Agriculture and Prices_, vol. i, p. 228.

[51] _Ibid._, vol. i, p. 234; vol. iv, p. 282.

[52] _Op. cit._, p. 19.

[53] Gras, _Evol. of the Eng. Corn Market_ (Cambridge, 1915), appendix A.

[54] Gras gives 1.35 quarters as the acre produce, or nearly 11
bushels. This figure is incorrect, as it is derived by dividing the
total produce of 42 manors by the total acreage planted on only 38
manors. The produce of the four manors on which the acreage planted is
unknown amounts to nearly 750 quarters, a large item in a total of
only 4527 quarters for the whole group of manors. The ratio of produce
to seed, however, is independent of the number of acres planted, and
these four manors are included in the computation of this figure.

[55] Gras, _op. cit._, appendix A. These figures are given only for
the manors for which the acreage planted in both periods is known--25
in the case of wheat, 4 in the case of the other grains.

[56] Gras, _op. cit._, appendix A; Levett and Ballard, _op. cit._, pp.
190, 203.

[57] Smyth, _Lives of the Berkeleys_, vol. i, p. 113.

[58] Page, _End of Villainage_ (Publications of the American Economic
Association, Third Series, 1900, vol. i, pp. 289-387), at p. 324, note 2.

[59] Levett and Ballard, _op. cit._, p. 83.

[60] Davenport, _op. cit._, p. 71.

[61] Page, _op. cit._, p. 345.

[62] _Ibid._, p. 340, note 1, and Levett, p. 85.

[63] _Ibid._, p. 340, note 1.

[64] Levett and Ballard, _op. cit._, p. 85.

[65] Levett and Ballard, _op. cit._, p. 85.

[66] Page, _op. cit._, p. 340.

[67] Levett and Ballard, _op. cit._, p. 135.

[68] Page, _op. cit._, p. 344, note 2.

[69] Davenport, _Decay of Villainage_, p. 127. For further evidence of
the voluntary relinquishment of land in this period, see Seebohm,
_Eng. Village Community_ (London, 1890), p. 30, note 4, and Davenport,
_Economic Development of a Norfolk Manor_, pp. 91, 71, 72.

[70] Levett and Ballard, _op. cit._, pp. 42-43.

[71] Davenport, _Economic Development of a Norfolk Manor_, p. 78, and
Smyth, _op. cit._, vol. i, p. 113.

[72] Levett and Ballard, _op. cit._, p. 157. "On many manors the
majority of the services owed were simply dropped, neither sold nor
commuted. They were evidently in many cases inefficient, expensive,
and inelastic."

[73] _Ibid._, p. 89.

[74] Levett and Ballard, _op. cit._, p. v.

[75] Levett and Ballard, _op. cit._, p. 199.

[76] Levett and Ballard, _op. cit._, p. 108.

[77] _Ibid._, pp. 38, 115.

[78] Page, _op. cit._, p. 342, note 2.

[79] Levett and Ballard, _op. cit._, p. 115.

[80] _Ibid._, p. 200.

[81] Page, _op. cit._, p. 342, note 2.

[82] Seebohm, _op. cit._, p. 30, note 2.

[83] Page, _End of Villainage_, p. 365.

[84] _Ibid._, p. 384.

[85] Levett and Ballard, _op. cit._, p. 157.

[86] Levett and Ballard, _op. cit._, p. 121.



For the reasons given in the last chapter, bailiff-farming rapidly
gave way to the various forms of the leasehold system in the
fourteenth and early fifteenth centuries. The economic basis of
serfdom was destroyed; a servile tenement could no longer be depended
upon to supply an able-bodied man to do work on the demesne for
several days a week throughout the year, with extra helpers from his
family at harvest time. The money received in commutation of customary
labor, or as rent from land which had formerly been held for services
was far less than the value of the services, and would not pay the
wages of free men hired in place of the serfs who had formerly
performed the labor. Moreover, the demesne land itself was for the
most part so unproductive that it had hardly paid to cultivate it even
at the slight expense incurred in furnishing food for the serfs
employed; it was all the more a waste of money to hire men to plow it
and sow it.

The text books on economic history usually give a careful account of
the various forms of leases which were used as bailiff-farming was
abandoned. We are told how the demesne was leased either as a whole or
in larger or smaller pieces to different tenants and sets of tenants,
for lives, for longer or shorter periods of years, with or without the
stock which was on it, and, in some cases, with the servile labor of
some of the villains, when this had not all been excused or commuted
into money payments. Arrangements necessarily differed on the
different manors, and the exact terms of these first experimental
leases do not concern us here.

The fact which does interest us is that with the cessation of bailiff
farming the last attempt at keeping the land distributed in fairly
equal shares among a large number of tenants was abandoned. Bond land
had been divided into portions which were each supposed to be
sufficient for the maintenance of a laborer and his family. As long as
the demesne was cultivated for the lord, it was to his interest to
prevent the concentration of holdings in a few hands, unless some
certain provision could be made to insure the performance of the labor
due from all of them. But even when the demesne was still being
managed for the lord, it had already become necessary in some cases to
allow one man to hold two or more of these portions, for the
productivity had so declined that one was no longer enough. Now, with
the leasing of the demesne, the lord no longer had an interest in
maintaining the working population of the manor at a certain level,
but was concerned with the problem of getting as much rent as
possible. When the demesne and the vacant bond tenements began to be
leased, the land was given to the highest bidder, and the competitive
system was introduced at the start. This led to the gradual
accumulation of large holdings by some tenants, while other men were
still working very small portions, and others occupied holdings of
every intermediate size. The uniformity of size characteristic of the
early virgates disappeared. In this chapter these points will be
considered briefly, and a study will also be made of the way in which
these new holders managed their lands.

In the first place, as the more destitute villains were giving up
their holdings and leaving the manor, and as no one could be found to
take their places on the old terms, the landlords gave up the policy
of holding the land until someone should be willing to pay the
accustomed services and let the vacant lands at the best rents
obtainable. Freeholders, and villains whose land was but lightly
burdened, and those who by superior management had been able to make
both ends meet, were now able to increase their holdings by adding a
few acres of land which had been a part of the demesne or of a vacated
holding. The case of the man at Sutton, who took up three virgates and
a cotland, has already been mentioned. Another case of "engrossing,"
as it was called, dated from 1347-1348 at Meon, where John Blackman
paid fines for one messuage with ten acres of land, two other
messuages with a virgate of land each, one parcel of four acres, and
another holding whose nature is not specified.[87]

Legislators who observed this tendency issued edicts against it. No
attempt was made to discover the underlying cause of which it was
merely a symptom. The first agrarian statutes were of a
characteristically restrictive nature, and no constructive policy was
attempted by the government until after a century of futile attempts
to deal with the separate evils of engrossing, enclosure, conversion
to pasture, destruction of houses and rural depopulation. The first
remedy these evils suggested was limitation of the amount of land
which one man should be allowed to hold.[88] In 1489 the statutes
begin to prohibit the occupation of more than one farm by the same
man, or to regulate the use of the land so occupied. The statute of
1489 refers to the Isle of Wight, where "Many dwelling places, fermes,
and fermeholdes have of late tyme ben used to be taken in to oon manys
hold and handes, that of old tyme were wont to be in severall persons
holdes and handes."[89] The proclamation of 1514 regulated the use of
land held by all persons who were tenants of more than _one_ farm.[90]
A law of 1533 provides that no person should occupy more than _two_

The old villain holdings did not necessarily pass intact into the
hands of one holder, but were sometimes divided up and taken by
different men, a few acres at a time. One Richard Grene in 1582 held
lands of which ten and a half acres had been gradually acquired
through as many as ten grants. This land had formed part of six other
holdings, and much of the rest of the land belonging to these holdings
had also been alienated.[92] The Inquisition of 1517 reported numerous
cases of engrossing, and Professor Gay notes some of the entries in
the returns of the Inquisition of 1607 which are also interesting in
this connection: W. S. separated six yardlands from a manor house and
put a widow in the house, a laborer in the kitchen and a weaver in the
barn. The land was divided between two tenants who already had houses,
and presumably, other land, and were taking this opportunity to
enlarge their holdings of land. G. K. took from a farmhouse the land
which formed part of the same tenement and leased the house to a
laborer who had "but one acre of land in every field."[93]

The growing irregularity of holdings, combined with the decrease in
the number of holders whose interests had to be consulted, made it
easier than it had formerly been to modify the traditional routine of
husbandry. Even though the new land acquired by tenants from the
demesne or from old bond-holdings did not happen to be adjacent to
strips already in their possession, exchange could accomplish the
desired result. At Gorleston, Suffolk, a tenant sublet about half of
his holding to eight persons, and at the same time acquired plots of
land for himself from another eight holdings.[94] Before 1350
exchanges, sales and subletting of land by tenants had become general
on the manors of the Bishopric of Winchester. It is unusual to find
more than two cases of exchanges in any one year, even on a large
manor; but Miss Levett adds: "On the other hand, one can hardly look
through the fines on any one of the episcopal manors for a period of
ten years without finding one or two. From the close correspondence of
the areas exchanged, together with exact details as to position, it is
fairly clear that the object of the exchange was to obtain more
compact holdings."[95]

Fitzherbert writes that "By the assente of the Lordes and tenauntes,
euery neyghbour may exchange lands with other."[96] This practice was
especially sanctioned by law in 1597 "for the more comodious
occupyinge or husbandrie of anye Land, Meadows, or Pastures,"[97] but
it was common in the open-field villages before the legal permission
was given. Tawney reproduces several maps belonging to All Souls'
Muniment Room, which show the ownership of certain open-field
holdings of about 1590. Here consolidation of plots had proceeded
noticeably. There are several plots of considerable size held by a
single tenant.

The advantage of consolidated holdings are considerable. In the first
place, the turf boundaries between the strips could be plowed up, or
the direction of the plowing itself could be changed, if enough strips
were thrown together. Fitzherbert advises the farmer who has a number
of strips lying side by side and who

     hath no dung nor shepe to compost nor dung his land withall. Then
     let the husband take his ploughe, and cast al such landes three
     or four tymes togider, and make theyr rigge theyr as ye raine was
     before.... And so shel he finde new moulde, that was not sene in
     an hundred yeres before, the which must nedes gyue more corne
     than the other dydde before.[98]

In two Elizabethan surveys examined by Corbett, we have evidence that
the theoretical advantages urged by Fitzherbert were not unknown in
practice. It is now and then stated that the _metae_ between strips
have been plowed up. But sometimes, even though all of the strips in a
furlong had been acquired by the same owner, and enclosed, the land
was left in strips. Some of the pieces were freehold, others copyhold,
and the lord may have objected to having the boundaries
obliterated.[99] Cross plowing is also occasionally referred to in
these surveys, but it was apparently rare.[99]

The possibility of improvement in this direction, although not to be
ignored, was, however, comparatively slight. The important changes
which resulted from the increased size of the holdings were not so
much in the direction of superior management of the land, as in that
of making a selection between the different qualities of land, and
cultivating only the land in comparatively good condition. Tenants
taking up additional land cultivated only a part of their enlarged
holdings. The least productive strips were allowed to become overgrown
with grass. The better strips were kept under crop.

If we are to accept the testimony of Fitzherbert and Tusser, strips of
grass in the common fields, or lea land, as it was called, were a
feature of every open-field township, by the sixteenth century.
According to Fitzherbert, "in euery towneshyppe that standeth in
tillage in the playne countrye, there be ... leyse to tye or tedder
theyr horses and mares vpon."[100] According to Tusser, the process of
laying to grass unproductive land was still going on.

  Land arable driuen or worne to the proofe,
    and craveth some rest for thy profits behoof,
  With otes ye may sowe it the sooner to grasse
    more sooner to pasture to bring it to passe.[101]

The later surveys give additional evidence of the extent to which the
new tenantry had restricted the area of cultivation in the old fields
which had once been entirely arable land. The most noteworthy feature
of the survey of East Brandon, Durham (1606), was, according to Gray,

    the appearance in certain fields of meadow along-side the arable.
    Lowe field was almost transformed by such procedure, for seldom
    did the tenants retain any arable there. Instead they had large
    parcels of meadow, sometimes as many as twenty acres; nor does
    anything indicate that these parcels were enclosed. They seem,
    rather to have remained open and to point to a gradual abandonment
    of arable tillage. Such an abandonment is more clearly indicated
    by another survey of this series, that of Eggleston.... Presumably
    the fields had once been largely arable. When, however, the survey
    was made, change had begun, though not in the direction of
    enclosure, of which there was still little. Conversion to meadow
    had proceeded without it: nearly all the parcels of the various
    tenants in East field and West field are said to have been meadow;
    arable still predominated only in Middle field, and even there it
    had begun to yield.[102]

At Westwick, Whorlton, Bolam and Willington in Durham, and at Welford,
Northamptonshire, a similar transformation had taken place.[103]

This land was obviously withdrawn from cultivation not because the
tenants preferred grass land, or because grass land was more valuable
than arable, but because it could be plowed only at a loss. Where, as
at Greens Norton, arable and leas are valued separately in the survey,
the grass land is shown to be of less value than the land still under
cultivation.[104] The land craved rest, (to use Tusser's phrase), and
the grass which grew on it was of but little value. Here we have no
capitalist systematically buying up land for grazing, but a withdrawal
of land from cultivation by the tenants themselves, even though they
were in no position to prepare it properly for grazing purposes. The
importance of this fact cannot be over-emphasized. It is true that
pasture, properly enclosed and stocked, was profitable, and that men
who were able to carry out this process became notorious among their
contemporaries on account of their gains. But it is also true that the
land which was converted to pasture by these enclosers was fit for
nothing else. Husbandmen had had to withdraw much of their open-field
ground from tillage simply because it was so unproductive that they
could not count on a bare return of seed if they planted it. The
pasturage for an additional horse or cow which these plots furnished
was pure gain, and was not the object of the conversion to grass. The
unproductive strips would have been left untilled even though no
alternative use had been possible. They were unfit for cultivation.

The advantage of holding this lea land did not end, however, with the
fact that a few additional horses or cows could be kept on the grass
which sprang up. This was undoubtedly of some value, but the greatest
advantage lay in the fact that this land gradually recovered its
strength. When the strips which were kept under cultivation finally
produced in their turn so little that they had to be abandoned, the
tenant who had access to land which had been laid to grass years
before could plow this instead, for it had regained its fertility and
had improved in physical quality. Fitzherbert recommends a regular
interchange between "Reyst" ground and arable land which had become
exhausted. When the grass strips become mossy and make poor pasture,
plow them up and plant them; when arable strips fail to produce good
crops, lay them to grass. Lea ground, "the whiche hath ben errable
land of late" should be plowed up.

     And if a man haue plentie of suche pasture, that wil be mossie
     euery thyrd yere, lette hym breake vp a newe piece of gronde, and
     plowe it and sowe it (as I haue seyde before), and he shal haue
     plentye of corne, with littell dongynge, and sow it no lengar
     thu it will beare plentye of corne, without donge, and it will
     beare much better grasse, x or xii yere after.... Reyst grounde
     if it be dry, will bringe much corne, for the mosse will rotte,
     and the moll hillockes will amende the ground wel.[105]

Tusser's references to the practice of plowing up lea ground and
laying other land to grass are so incidental as to be good evidence of
the fact that this was not merely the recommendation of a theorist,
but a common practice, the details of which were familiar to those for
whom he intended his book. A passage in which he refers to the laying
to grass of land in need of rest has already been quoted.[106] In
discussing the date at which plowing should take place he mentions the
plowing up of lea land as well as of fallow.[107]

The superior value of enclosed pasture to open-field leas, and of
enclosed arable to open-field arable, is not only asserted by
Fitzherbert and others who are urging husbandmen to enclose their
land, but appears also when manorial surveys are examined. It would
seem, therefore, that the tenants would have been anxious to carry the
process to an end and enclose their land. Undoubtedly the larger
holders were desirous of making the change, but as long as the rights
of the lesser men were respected, it was almost impossible to carry it
out. The adjustment of conflicting and obscure claims was generally
held to be an insuperable obstacle, even by those who urged the change
most strongly, while those who on principle opposed anything in the
way of enclosure took comfort in the fact that holdings were so
intermixed that there was little prospect of accomplishing the change:

     Wheare (men) are intercominers in comon feildes and also haue
     theare portions so intermingled with an other that, thoughe they
     would, they could not inclose anie parte of the saide feldes so
     long as it is so.[108]

Just as the services of a promoter are needed in the formation of a
modern industrial combination, pressure from above was usually
necessary in order to overcome the difficulties of the situation. The
Lord of Berkeley (1281-1321)

     drewe much profitt to his Tenants and increase of fines to
     himselfe ... by makeing and procuringe to bee made exchanges of
     land mutually one with an other, thereby casting convenient
     Parcells togeather, fitting it for an inclosure and conversion.
     And by freeinge such inclosures from all comonage of others.[109]

A landlord of this sort would do much to override the opposition of
those who, through conservatism, fear of personal loss, or insistence
upon more than their share of the benefits of the readjustment, made
it impossible for tenants to carry out these changes unassisted.

Where tenants with or without the assistance of the lord had managed
to enclose some of their land and free it from right of common, they
were in a position to devote it to sheep-farming if they chose to do
so. Ordinarily they did not do this. If, as has been claimed, the
large-scale enclosures which shall be considered later were made
because of an increasing demand for wool, it is surprising that these
husbandmen were willing to keep enclosed land under cultivation, and
even to plow up enclosed pasture. The land had to be kept under grass
for a part of the time, whether it was open or enclosed, because if
kept continuously under the plow it became unproductive; and it was
better to have this land enclosed so that it could be used
advantageously as pasture during the period when it was recovering its
strength. But the profits of pasturage were not high enough to prevent
men from plowing up the land when it was again in fit condition.

At Forncett, the tenants had begun sheep-farming by the end of the
fourteenth century, and had also begun to enclose land in the
open-fields; the situation was one, therefore, in which agriculture
was likely to be permanently displaced by grazing, according to the
commonly accepted theory of the enclosure movement. This change failed
to take place; not because enclosures ceased to be made--nearly half
of the acreage of the fields was in enclosures by 1565--but because
the tenants preferred to cultivate this enclosed land.[110] If the
enclosures had been pasture when they were first made, they did not
remain permanently under grass. Like the land still in the open
fields, and like the small enclosures in Cheshire reported by the
commission of 1517, they were sometimes plowed and sometimes laid to
grass, according to the condition of the soil. In a Cheshire village,
two tenants had small enclosures in the same field, which were treated
in this way. At the time the commission visited the place, one of
these closes was being used as pasture, and the other was in
cultivation. John Monkesfield's close, which had been made six years

     _continet in se duas acras & diversis temporibus fuit in cultura
     & aliis temporibus in pastura & nunc occupata est in

John Molynes' close of one acre had been made the year before and

     _fuit antea in pastura & nunc occupata est in cultura._

It had evidently been a strip of lea land which had been so improved
by being kept under grass that it was in fit condition for
cultivation, while John Monkesfield's close had been plowed long
enough and was just at this time in need of rest. These men were
apparently unaffected by any increasing demand for wool, but were
managing their land according to its needs.

By the sixteenth century, then, some enclosures had appeared in the
open fields, and the old common-field system was disintegrating. The
old customary holdings had been so altered that they were hardly
recognizable. Some tenants held a great number of acres, and had
managed by purchase or exchange to get possession of a number of
adjacent strips, which they might, under certain conditions, be able
to enclose. Much of the land, however, was withdrawn from cultivation,
and for years was allowed to remain almost in the condition of waste.

For the most part, however, there had been no revolutionary change in
the system of husbandry. The framework remained. The whole community
still possessed claims extending over most of the land. The village
flocks pastured on the stubble and the fallows of the open fields. The
advantages which could in theory be derived from the control of
several adjacent strips of land were reduced to a minimum by the
necessity of maintaining old boundaries to mark off from each other
lands of differing status. Even where the consolidation of holdings
had proceeded to some extent, the tenants who had acquired the most
compact holdings in comparison with the majority still possessed
scattered plots of land separated from each other by the holdings of
other men, and some of the smaller holders had no two strips which
touched each other. When the tenants had been left to themselves, all
of the changes which took place before the eighteenth century,
numerous as they were, usually left the fields in a state resembling
more their condition in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries than that
of the nineteenth century.


[87] Levett and Ballard, _op. cit._, p. 49, note.

[88] A speech on enclosures commending bills proposed in 1597
contrasts the constructive character of that legislation with the
earlier laws: "Where the gentleman that framed this bill hath dealt
like a most skilful chirugien, not clapping on a plaster to cover the
sore that it spread no further, but searching into the very depths of
the wound that the life and strength which hath so long been in decay
by the wasting of towns and countries may at length again be quickened
and repaired." Bland, Brown & Tawney, _Eng. Econ. History--Select
Documents_, pp. 271-272.

[89] 4 H. 7, c. 16, as quoted by Pollard, _Reign of Henry VII_, p. 237.

[90] Leadam, _Domesday of Inclosures_ (London, 1897), p. 7

[91] 25 H. 8, c. 13.

[92] Gray, _English Field Systems_ (Cambridge, 1915), pp. 95-96.

[93] "Midland Revolt," _R. H. S. Trans._, New Series, vol. xviii, p. 230.

[94] Tawney, _Agrarian Problem_, pp. 164-165.

[95] Levett and Ballard, _op. cit._, pp. 52-53.

[96] _Husbandry_ (ed. English Dialect Society, 1882), p. 77.

[97] 39 El., c. i, vi.

[98] _Surveying_ (2nd ed., 1567), ch. 24.

[99] Corbett, "Elizabethan Village Surveys," _Royal Hist. Soc.
Trans._, New Series, vol. ii, pp. 67-87.

[100] _Surveyinge_, ch. 41.

[101] _Five Hundred Points_ (London, 1812).

[102] Gray, _op. cit._, pp. 106-107.

[103] Gray, _op. cit._, pp. 35, 106-107.

[104] Lennard, _Rural Northamptonshire_, pp. 100-101.

[105] Fitzherbert, _Surveyinge_, chs. 27 and 28.

[106] See p. 79. Another reference to this process is made in
October's _Husbandry_, vol. 22, ch. 17.

[107] Tusser, January's _Husbandry_, vol. 47, ch. 32.

[108] _A Discourse of the Common Weal of this Realm of England_, ed.
by Elizabeth Lamond, Cambridge, 1893.

[109] Smyth, _Lives of the Berkeleys_, vol. ii, pp. 159-160.

[110] Davenport, _Norfolk Manor_, pp. 80-81.

[111] Leadam, _op. cit._, pp. 641-644.



Enclosure made by the tenants themselves by common agreement aroused
no opposition or apprehension. No diminution of the area under tillage
beyond that which had already of necessity taken place occurred, and
the grass land already present in the fields was made available for
more profitable use. The Doctor in Hales' dialogue carefully excepts
this sort of enclosure from condemnation:

     I meane not all Inclosures, nor yet all commons, but only of such
     Inclosures as turneth commonly arable feildes into pastures; and
     violent Inclosures, without Recompense of them that haue the
     right to comen therein: for if the land weare seuerallie inclosed
     to the intent to continue husbandrie theron, and euerie man, that
     had Right to commen, had for his portion a pece of the same to
     him selfe Inclosed, I thincke no harm but rather good should come
     therof, yf euerie man did agre theirto.[112]

In this passage Hales recognizes the theoretical possibility of a
beneficial sort of enclosure, but the conditional form in which his
remarks are thrown indicates that, so far as he knew, there was little
systematic division of the land among the tenants by common consent.

Orderly rearrangement of holdings into compact plots suitable for
enclosure was difficult unless the small holders had all disappeared,
leaving in the community only men of some means, who were able to
undertake the expenses of the readjustment. In most villages,
however, holdings of all sizes were the rule. Some tenants had almost
no land under cultivation, but picked up a living by working for
others, and by keeping a few sheep on the commons and on the fallow
lands of the town. There was thus always a fringe of peasant families
on the verge of destitution. They were being gradually eliminated, but
the process was extremely slow. A few of them in each generation,
feeling as a realized fact the increasing misery which has been
predicted for the modern industrial laborer, were forced to give up
the struggle. Their land passed into the hands of the more prosperous
men, who were thus gradually accumulating most of the land. In some
cases, no doubt, all of the poorer tenantry were drained off in this
fashion, making it possible for those who remained to consolidate
their holdings and enclose them in the fashion advocated by
Fitzherbert, keeping a part under tillage until it needed a rest, and
pasturing sheep and cattle in the closes which were under grass.

It is impossible to estimate the number of these cases. What we do
know is that in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries no such stage
had been reached in hundreds of English townships. The enclosures
which had been made by the tenants were of a few acres here and there.
The fields for the most part were still open and subject to common,
and consisted in part of poor pasture land. We do know also that many
landlords took matters into their own hands, dispossessed the tenants,
and enclosed a part or all of the land for sheep pastures. The date at
which this step was made, and the thoroughness with which it was
carried out, depended very much upon the character and needs of the
landlord, as well as upon local circumstances affecting the condition
of the soil and the degree of poverty suffered by the tenants. The
tendency for landlords to lose patience with the process which was
gradually eliminating the poorer men and concentrating their land in
the hands of the more prosperous is not characteristic of any one
century. It began as early as the middle of the fourteenth century,
and it extended well into the seventeenth. By 1402 clergy were being
indicted as _depopulatores agrorum_.[113] In the fifteenth century
statutes against enclosure and depopulation were beginning to be
passed, and Rous gives a list of fifty-four places near Warwick which
had been wholly or partially depopulated before about 1486.[114] For
the sixteenth century, we have the evidence of numerous statutes, the
returns of the commissions, doggerel verse, popular insurrections,
sermons, _etc._ Miss Leonard's study of the seventeenth-century
enclosures is confirmed by additional evidence presented by Gonner
that the movement was unchecked in this period. In 1692, for instance,
Houghton was attacking the "common notion that enclosure always leads
to grass," by pointing out a few exceptions.[115] In 1695 Gibson spoke
of the change from tillage to pasture, which had been largely within
living memory.[116]

There is no reason to believe that the landowners who carried out this
process were unusually mercenary and heartless. The need for putting
their land to some remunerative use was imperative, and it is
surprising that the enclosure movement was of such a piece-meal
character and extended over so many years, rather than that it took
place at all.

There was little rent to be had from land which lay for the most part
in open fields, tilled by men who had no capital at their command for
improving the condition of the soil, or for utilizing profitably the
portion of the land which was so impoverished that it could not be

Poor tenants are unprofitable tenants; it is difficult to collect rent
from them and impossible to raise their rent, and they attempt to save
by exploiting the land, leaving it in worse condition than when they
received it. Contemporary references to the poverty of these
open-field tenants all confirm the impression given by Hales:

     They that be husbandmen now haue but a scant lyvinge therby.[117]
     I that haue enclosed litle or nothinge of my grond could (never
     be able) to make vp my lordes rent weare it not for a little
     brede of neate, shepe, swine, gese and hens that I doe rere vpon
     my ground: whereof, because the price is sumwhat round, I make
     more cleare proffitt than I doe of all my corne and yet I haue
     but a bare liuinge.[118]

Harrison, at the end of the century, writes of the open-field tenants:

     They were scarce able to liue and paie their rents at their daies
     without selling of a cow or an horsse, or more, although they
     paid but foure poundes at the vttermost by the yeare.[119]

The tenant who could not pay this rent without selling stock was, of
course, one of those who would soon have to give up his land
altogether, if the landlord continued to demand rent. If he sold his
horses and oxen to raise the rent one year, he was less able to work
his land properly the next year, and the crop, too small in the first
place to enable him to cover expenses, diminished still more. When
the current income was ordinarily too small to cover current expenses,
no relief was to be found by reducing the capital. A time came when
these men must be either turned away, and their land leased to others,
or else allowed to stay and make what poor living they could from the
soil, without paying even the nominal rent which was to be expected of

Lord North's comment on the enclosure movement as he saw it in the
seventeenth century is suggestive of the state of affairs which led to
the eviction of these husbandmen:

     Gentlemen of late years have taken up an humor of destroying
     their tenements and cottages, whereby they make it impossible
     that mankind should inhabit their estates. This is done sometimes
     barefaced because they harbour poor that are a charge to the
     parish, and sometimes because the charge of repairing is great,
     and if an house be ruinous they will not be at the cost of
     rebuilding and repairing it, and cast their lands into very great
     farms which are managed with less housing: and oftimes for
     improvement as it is called which is done by buying in all
     freeholds, copyholds, and tenements that have common and which
     harboured very many husbandry and labouring families and then
     enclosing the commons and fields, turning the managry from
     tillage to grasing.[120]

Not only were these men able to pay little rent for the land they
held, but, as has been suggested, they were unable to maintain the
land in proper condition by the use of manure and marl. These expenses
were beyond the means of the farmer who was falling behind; they
neglected the soil because they were poor, and they were poor because
the yield of the land was so low; but their neglect caused it to
decline even more. Fitzherbert, who deplores the fact that marl is no
longer used in his time, points out that not only the leaseholder, who
is averse to making improvements on account of the insecurity of his
tenure, but the freeholder, also, is neglecting his land; although

     He knoweth well, he shall take the profits while he liueth, & his
     heyres after him, a corrage to improw his owne, the which is as
     good as and he purchased as much as the improwment cometh

But if he spent money on marling the soil, he would have nothing to
live on while waiting for the crop. The very poverty of the small
holders made it necessary for them to sink in still greater poverty,
until the lord deprived them of the land, or until they became so
discouraged that they gave it up of their own volition. They might
easily understand the force of Fitzherbert's arguments without being
able to follow his advice. "Marle mendeth all manor of grounde, but it
is costly."[122] The same thing is true of manure. According to
Denton, the expense of composting land was almost equivalent to the
value of the fee simple of the ground. He refers to a record of the
early fourteenth century of the payment of more than twice the
ordinary rent for composted land.[123] With manure at high prices, the
man in difficulty might be tempted to sell what he had; it was
certainly out of the question for him to buy more. Or, what amounted
to the same thing, he might sell hay or straw, and so reduce the
forage for his cattle, and return less to the soil by means of their

Dr. Simkhovitch points out the difference between the farmer who is
unable to meet expenses in a particular year because of an
exceptionally bad season, and one who is suffering because of
progressive deterioration of his farm. The first may borrow and make
good the difference the following year; the latter will be unable to
extricate himself. He neither has means to increase his holding by
renting or buying more land, nor to improve the land which he has
already. His distress is cumulative:

     Only one with sufficient resources can improve his land. By
     improving land we add to our capital, while by robbing land we
     immediately add to our income; in doing so, however, we diminish
     out of all proportion our capital as farmers, the productive
     value of our farm land. The individual farmer can therefore
     improve his land only when in an economically strong position. A
     farmer who is failing to make a living on his farm is more likely
     to exploit his farm to the utmost; and when there is no room for
     further exploitation he is likely to meet the deficit by
     borrowing, and thus pledging the future productivity of his

While small holders in the open fields were in no position to pay
higher rents, the land owners were suffering. Prices were rising, and
while the higher price of farm produce in the market was of little
help to the tenant whose own family used nearly everything he could
raise, the landlords felt the pressure of an increasing cost of

     Many of us [says the Gentleman, in Hales' dialogue] haue bene
     driuen to giue over oure houshold, and to kepe either a chambere
     in london, or to waight on the courte Vncalled, with a man and a
     lacky after him, wheare he was wonte to kepe halfe a score cleane
     men in his house, and xxtie or xxxtie other persons besides,
     everie day in the weke.... We are forced either to minyshe the
     thirde parte of our houshold, or to raise the thirde parte of our

It was difficult for the landowners to make economic use of even those
portions of the land which were not in the hands of customary tenants.
If they were willing to invest capital in enclosing demesne land and
stocking it with sheep, without disturbing their small tenants, they
found it impossible to do so. Not only did the poorer tenants have to
cultivate land which was barely productive of more than the seed used,
because they could not afford to allow it to lie idle as long as it
would produce anything; not only did they allow the land which was
under grass to remain practically waste, because they could not afford
to enclose it and stock it with sheep; not only did they neglect
manuring and marling the land because these improvements were beyond
their means, so that the land was constantly growing poorer in their
hands, and so that they could pay very little rent; but they were also
tenacious of their rights of common over the rest of the land, and
resisted all attempts at enclosure of the holdings of the more
prosperous tenants, because they had to depend for their living
largely upon the "little brede of neate, shepe, swine, gese and hens"
which were maintained partly by the gleanings from other men's land
when it lay common.

They undoubtedly suffered when the lord himself or one of the large
leaseholders insisted on enclosing some of the land. If the commonable
area was reduced, or if the land enclosed was converted from arable to
pasture (as it usually was), the means by which they made their living
was diminished. The occasional day's wages for labor spent on the land
converted was now withdrawn, and the pasturage for the little flock
was cut down. The practical effect of even the most innocent-looking
enclosures, then, must have been to deprive the poorer families of the
means of livelihood, even though they were not evicted from their
worthless holdings. Enclosures and depopulation were inseparably
linked in the minds of contemporaries, even when the greatest care was
taken by the enclosing authorities to safeguard the rights of the

These rights, however, seriously interfered with the most advantageous
use of land, and often were disregarded. Not only did the small
holders have rights of common over the rest of the land, but their own
strips were intermingled with those of the lord and the large holders.
The typical problem confronting the enclosing landlord is shown below:


       _Strips in Furlong A_             _Strips in Furlong B_
     1. Will Yelverton, freeholder.   1. Robert Clemente, freeholder.
     2. Demesne.                      2. Demesne.
     3. Demesne.                      3. Demesne.
     4. Will Yelverton.               4. Demesne.
     5. Demesne.                      5. Demesne.
     6. Demesne.                      6. Demesne.
     7. Demesne.                      7. Demesne.
     8. Demesne.                      8. Demesne.
     9. Demesne.                      9. Will Lee, freeholder.
    10. Glebe.                       10. Will Gell, copyholder.
    11. Demesne.                     11. Demesne.
    12. Demesne.                     12. Demesne.
    13. Glebe.                       13. Demesne.

If, as was probably the case, the product from these demesne strips
was so small that the land was fit only for conversion to pasture, the
pecuniary interest of the lord was to be served best by enclosing it
and converting it. But should he make three enclosures in furlong A,
and two in furlong B, besides taking pains to leave a way clear for
Will Yelverton and Lee and Gell to reach their land? Or should he be
content merely with enclosing the larger plots of land, because of the
expense of hedging and ditching the smaller plots separately from the
rest? If he did this, the unenclosed portions would be of little
value, as the grass which grew on them could not be properly utilized
for pasture. The final alternative was to get possession of the strips
which did not form part of the demesne, so that the whole could be
made into one compact enclosure. In order to do this it might be
necessary to dispossess Will Lee, Will Gell, _etc._ The intermingling
of holdings, in such a way that small holders (whose own land was in
such bad condition that they could not pay their rents) blocked the
way for improvements on the rest of the land, was probably responsible
for many evictions which would not otherwise have taken place.

But not all evictions were due to this cause alone. The income to the
owner from land which was left in the hands of customary tenants was
much lower than if it was managed by large holders with sufficient
capital to carry out necessary changes. Where it is possible to
compare the rents paid by large and small holders on the same manor,
this fact is apparent:


                                         I            II          III

                                      s.   d.      s.   d.      s.    d.

    Lands held by farmers             1    6            7 3/4   1     5 3/4

    Lands held by customary tenants        7 1/2        5       1     0 3/4

                                          IV            V

                                        s.  d.        s.  d.

    Lands held by farmers               1   1 3/4     1   5 1/2

    Lands held by customary tenants         5 3/4         5 3/4

The differences in these rents are sufficient to be tempting to the
lord who was seeking his own interest. The large holders were able to
expend the capital necessary for enclosing and converting the part of
the land which could not be profitably cultivated because of its bad
condition. The capital necessary for this process itself was
considerable, and besides, it was necessary to wait several years
before there was a return on the investment, while the sod was
forming, to say nothing of the large expenditure necessary for the
purchase of the sheep. The land when so treated, however, enabled the
investor to pay higher rents than the open-field husbandmen who
"rubbed forth their estate in the poorest plight."[128]

A lord who was willing to consider only pecuniary advantage had
everything to gain by clearing the land entirely of small holders, and
putting it in the hands of men with capital. It is, therefore, to the
credit of these landowners that there are so few authentic cases of
the depopulation of entire villages and the conversion of all of the
arable land into sheep runs. These cases made the lords who were
responsible notorious and were, no doubt, exceptional. Nearly fifteen
hundred places were covered by the reports of the commissions of 1517
and 1607, and Professor Gay has found among these "but a round dozen
villages or hamlets which were all enclosed and emptied of their
inhabitants, the full half of them in Northamptonshire."[129] For the
most part, the enclosures reported under the inquisitions as well as
those indicated on the maps and surveys of the period involved only
small areas, and point to a process of piece-meal enclosure. The
landowners seem to have been reluctant to cause hardship and to have
left the open-field tenants undisturbed as far as possible, contenting
themselves with the enclosure and conversion of small plots of land.

The social consequences of so-called depopulating enclosure were
serious, but they are not seen in their proper perspective when one
imagines the condition of the evicted tenants to have been fairly good
before they were dispossessed. The cause lying back of the enclosure
movement was bringing about the gradual sinking of family after
family, even when no evictions were made. To attribute the poverty and
misery of the rural population to the enclosure movement is to
overlook the unhappy condition of the peasants, even where no
enclosures had been made. Enclosures had been forbidden in the fields
of royal manors in Northamptonshire, but this did not protect the
peasantry from destitution. The manor of Grafton, for instance, was
surveyed in 1526 and a note was made at the end of the survey that the
revenue drawn from the lordship had lately been increased, but "there
can no ferther enprovemente there be made and to kepe the tenantries
standyng. Item the tenauntriez there be in sore decaye." The surveyor
of Hartwell also notes that the "tenements there be in decay."[130]

The economic basis of the unfortunate social changes which were
associated with the process of enclosure came gradually to be
recognized. It was evidently futile to enact laws requiring the
cultivation of land "wasted and worn with continual plowing and
thereby made bare, barren and very unfruitfull."[131] Merely
restrictive and prohibitory legislation was followed by the suggestion
of constructive measures. Until the middle of the sixteenth century,
laws were made in the attempt to put a stop to the conversion of
arable land to pasture under any conditions, and required that land
which had been under cultivation should be plowed in the future. In
the act of 1552, however, an attitude somewhat more reasonable is to
be seen. It was provided that land which had been under cultivation
within a certain number of years preceding the act should be tilled,
"_or so much in quantity_."[132] Public men were also urging that less
time be devoted to the futile attempt to force men to cultivate land
unfit for tillage, and that encouragement be given instead to measures
for improving the waste, and bringing fresh land under the plow.[133]

After a time, moreover, another fact became apparent: there was a
marked tendency to break up and again cultivate the land which in
former generations had been converted to pasture. The statute of 1597
not only contained a proviso permitting the conversion of arable
fields to pasture on condition that other land be tilled instead,[134]
thus tacitly admitting that the reason for withdrawing land from
cultivation was not the low price of grain, but the barrenness of the
land, but also explicitly referred to this fact in another proviso
permitting the conversion of arable land to pasture temporarily, _for
the purpose of recovering its strength_:

     Provided, nevertheless, That if anie _P_son or Body Pollitique or
     Corporate hath ... laide or hereafter shall lay anie grownde to
     graze, or hathe used or shall use the same grownde with shepe or
     anie other cattell, which Grownde hath bene or shall be dryven or
     worne owte with Tillage, onely upon good Husbandrie, and with
     intente bona fide withowt Fraude or Covyne the same Grownde shall
     recover Harte and Strengthe, an not with intent to continue the
     same otherwise in shepe Pasture or for fattinge or grazinge of
     Cattell, that no such _P_son or Body Politike or Corporate shall
     be intended for that Grownde a Converter within the meaning of
     this Lawe.[135]

A speaker in the House of Commons commends these provisions:

     For it fareth with the earth as with other creatures that through
     continual labour grow faint and feeble-hearted, and therefore, if
     it be so far driven as to be out of breath, we may now by this
     law resort to a more lusty and proud piece of ground while the
     first gathers strength, which will be a means that the earth
     yearly shall be surcharged with burden of her own excess. And
     this did the former lawmakers overslip, tyeing the land once
     tilled to a perpetual bondage and servitude of being ever

Several years before the passage of this statute, Bacon had remarked
that men were breaking up pasture land and planting it voluntarily.[137]
In 1619, a commission was appointed to consider the granting of licenses
"for arable lands converted from tillage to pasture." The proclamation
creating this commission, after referring to the laws formerly made
against such conversions, continues:

     As there is much arable land of that nature become pasture, so is
     there by reason thereof, much more other lands of old pasture and
     waste, and wood lands where the plough neuer entred, as well as
     of the same pasture lands so heretofore conuerted, become
     errable, and by husbandrie made fruitfull with corne ... the
     quantitie and qualitie of errable and Corne lands at this day
     doth much exceed the quantitie that was at the making of the
     saide Lawe.... As the want thereof [of corn] shall appeare, or
     the price thereof increase, all or a great part of those lands
     which were heretofore converted from errable to pasture and have
     sithence gotten heart, strength and fruitfulness, will be reduced
     to Corne lands againe, to the great increase of graine to the
     Commonwealth and profite to each man in his private.[138]

John Hales had protested against depopulating enclosures, in 1549, by
appealing to the public spirit of landowners. They increased their
profits by converting arable land to pasture, but, he argued,

     It may not be liefull for euery man to vse his owne as hym
     lysteth, but eueyre man must vse that he hath to the most
     benefyte of his countrie. Ther must be somethynge deuysed to
     quenche this insatiable thirst of greedynes of men.[139]

But now it was no longer necessary to persuade the owners of this same
land to forgo their own interests for the sake of the public good.
Those whose land had been used as pasture for a great number of years
were finding it valuable arable, because of its long period of rest
and regeneration. Land which had been converted to pasture was being
put under the plow because of the greater profit of tillage.

So great was the profit of cultivating these pastures that landlords
who were opposed to having pastures broken up by leaseholders had
difficulty in preventing it. Towards the end of the sixteenth century
at Hawsted, and in the beginning of the seventeenth, a number of
leases contained the express provision that no pastures were to be
broken up. In 1620 and the years following, some of the leases
permitted cultivation of pasture, on the condition that the land was
to be laid to grass again five years before the expiration of the

There is no doubt of the fact that much land was being converted from
pasture to arable in this period. Evidence of this tendency multiplies
as the century advances. In 1656 Joseph Lee gave a list of fifteen
towns where arable land hitherto converted to pasture had been plowed
up again within thirty years.[141]

Barren and insufficiently manured land did not produce good crops
merely because other land had been given an opportunity to recover its
strength. The conversion of open-field arable to pasture went on
unchecked in the seventeenth century because it had not yet had the
benefit of the prolonged rest which made agriculture profitable, and
without which it had become impossible to make a living from the soil.
The lands which have been "heretofore converted from errable to
pasture.... have sithence gotten heart, strength and fruitfulnesse,"
and are therefore being plowed again; but the land which has escaped
conversion, and has been tied to the "perpetual bondage and servitude
of being ever tilled," is "faint and feeble-hearted," and is being
laid to grass, for pasture is the only use for which it is suited. The
cause of the conversion of arable fields to pasture is the same as
that which caused the same change on other lands at an earlier
date--so low a level of productivity that the land was not worth
cultivating. Lands whose fertility had been restored were put under
cultivation and plowed until they were again in need of rest.

Thus the final result was about the same whether an enclosing landlord
cut across the gradual process of readjustment of land-holding among
the tenants, and converted the whole into pasture, or whether the
process was allowed to go on until none but large holders remained in
the village. In both cases the tendency was towards a system of
husbandry in which the fertility of the soil was maintained by
periodically withdrawing portions of it from cultivation and laying
it to grass. In the one case, cultivation was completely suspended for
a number of years, but was gradually reintroduced as it became evident
that the land had recovered its strength while used as pasture. In the
other, the grazing of sheep and cattle was introduced as a
by-industry, for the sake of utilizing the land which had been set
aside to recover its strength, while the better land was kept under
the plow. Whether enclosures were made for better agriculture, then,
as Mr. Leadam contends, or for pasture, as is argued by Professor
Gay,[142] the arable enclosures were used as pasture for a part of the
time and the enclosed pastures came later to be used for tillage part
of the time, and the two things amount to the same thing in the end.

This end, however, had still not been reached in a great number of
open-field villages by the beginning of the eighteenth century, and we
should expect to find that the history of the land in this century was
but a repetition of what had gone before, in so far as the fields
which had not hitherto been enclosed are concerned.

But, during the seventeenth century, an agricultural revolution was
taking place. Experiments were being made with new forage crops. For
one thing, it was found that turnips could be grown in the fields and
that they made excellent winter forage; and grass seeding was
introduced. The grasses and clovers which were brought from Holland
not only made excellent hay, but improved the soil rapidly. The
possibility of increasing the amount of hay at will put an end to the
absolute scarcity of manure--the limiting factor in English
agriculture from the beginning. And the comparative ease with which
the artificial grasses could be made to grow did away with the need
of waiting ten or fifteen years, or perhaps half a century, for
natural grass to cover the fields and restore their productiveness.

     Only with the introduction of grass seeding did it become
     possible to keep a sufficient amount of stock, not only to
     maintain the fertility of the soil, but to improve it steadily.
     The soil instead of being taxed year after year under the heavy
     strain of grain crops was being renovated by the legumes that
     gathered nitrogen from the air and stored it on tubercles
     attached to their roots. The deep roots of the clover penetrated
     the soil, that no plow ever touched. Legumes like alfalfa,
     producing pound by pound more nutritious fodder than meadow
     grass, produced acre by acre two and three times the amount, and
     when such a field was turned under to make place for a grain
     crop, the deep and heavy sod, the mass of decaying roots, offered
     the farmer "virgin" soil, where previously even five bushels of
     wheat could not be gathered.[143]

As the value of these new crops became generally recognized, some
effort was made to introduce them into the regular rotation of crops
in the fields which were still held in common, but, for the most part,
these efforts were unsuccessful, and new vigor was given to the
enclosure movement. Frequently persons having no arable land of their
own had right of common over the stubble and fallow which could not be
exercised when turnips and clover were planted; for reasons of this
sort, it was difficult to change the ancient course of crops in the
open fields. For example, late in the eighteenth century (1793) at
Stiffkey and Morston, the improvements due to enclosure are said to
have been great, for:

     being half-year land before, they could raise no turnips except
     by agreement, nor cultivate their land to the best

At Heacham the common fields were enclosed by act in 1780, and Young

     Before the enclosure they were in no regular shifts and the field
     badly managed; now in regular five-shift Norfolk management.[145]

At Northwald, about 3,000 acres of open-field land were enclosed in
1796 and clover was introduced. The comment made is that "the crops
bear quite a new face." The common field of Brancaster before
enclosure in 1755 "was in an open, rude bad state; now in five or six
regular shifts."[146]

Hitherto there had been only one way of restoring fertility to land;
converting it to pasture and leaving it under grass for a prolonged
period. Now it could be speedily improved and used intensively. Arthur
Young describes the modern method of improvement in his account of the
changes made in Norfolk husbandry before 1771:

     From forty to fifty years ago, all the northern and western and a
     great part of the eastern tracts of the county were sheep walks,
     let so low as from 6 _d._ to 1_s._ 6 _d._ and 2 _s._ an acre.
     Much of it was in this condition only thirty years ago. The
     improvements have been made by the following circumstances.

     First. By enclosing without the assistance of Parliament.

     Second. By a spirited use of marl and clay.

     Third. By the introduction of an excellent course of crops.

     Fourth. By the introduction of turnips well hand-hoed.

     Fifth. By the culture of clover and ray-grass.

     Sixth. By the lords granting long leases.

     Seventh. By the country being divided chiefly into large farms.[147]

The evidence which has been examined in this monograph reveals the
far-reaching influence of soil exhaustion in English agrarian history
in the centuries before the introduction of these new crops. As the
yield of the soil declined, the ancient arable holdings proved
incapable of supporting their cultivators, and a readjustment had to
be made. The pressure upon subsistence was felt while villainage was
still in force, and the terms upon which serfdom dissolved were
influenced by this fact to an extent which has hitherto not been
recognized. The economic crisis involved in the spread of the money
economy threw into relief the destitution of the villains; and the
easy terms of the cash payments which were substituted for services
formerly due, the difficulty with which holders for land could be
obtained on any terms, the explicit references to the poverty of whole
communities at the time of the commutation of their customary
services, necessitate the abandonment of the commonly accepted view
that growing prosperity and the desire for better social status
explain the substitution of money payments for labor services in the
fourteenth century. The spread of the money economy was due to the
gradual integration of the economic system, the establishment of local
markets where small land holders could sell their produce for money.
Until this condition was present, it was impossible to offer money
instead of labor in payment of the customary dues; as soon as this
condition was present, the greater convenience of the use of money
made the commutation of services inevitable. In practise money
payments came gradually to replace the performance of services through
the system of "selling" works long before any formal commutation of
the services took place. But, whatever the explanation of the spread
of the money economy in England during this period, it is not the
prosperity of the villains, for, at the moment when the formal change
from payments in labor to money payments was made, the poverty and
destitution of the landholders were conspicuous. That this poverty was
due to declining fertility of the soil cannot be doubted. Land in
demesne as well as virgate land was showing the effects of centuries
of cultivation with insufficient manure, and returned so scant a crop
that much of it was withdrawn from cultivation, even when serf labor
with which to cultivate it was available. Exhaustion of the soil was
the cause of the pauperism of the fourteenth century, as it was also
of the enclosure and conversion to pasture of arable land in the
fifteenth, sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Systematic enclosure
for the purpose of sheep-farming on a large scale was but the final
step in a process of progressively less intense cultivation which had
been going on for centuries. The attention of some historians has been
devoted too exclusively to the covetous sheep-master, against whom
contemporary invective was directed, and the process which was going
on in fields where no encloser was at work has escaped their notice.
The three-field system was breaking down as it became necessary to
withdraw this or that exhausted plot from cultivation entirely for a
number of years. The periodic fallow had proved incapable of keeping
the land in proper condition for bearing crops even two years out of
three, and everywhere strips of uncultivated land began to appear in
the common fields. This lea land--waste land in the midst of the
arable--was a common feature of sixteenth and seventeenth century
husbandry. The strips kept under cultivation gave a bare return for
seed, and the profit of sheep-raising need not have been
extraordinarily high to induce landowners to abandon cultivation
entirely under these conditions. A great part of the arable fields lay
waste, and could be put to no profitable use unless the whole was
enclosed and stocked with sheep. The high profit made from
sheep-raising cannot be explained by fluctuations in the price of
wool. The price of wool fell in the fifteenth century. Sheep-farming
was comparatively profitable because the soil of the ancient fields
was too barren to repay the costs of tillage. Land which was in part
already abandoned, was turned into pasture. The barrenness and low
productivity of the common fields is explicitly recognised by
contemporaries, and is given as the reason for the conversion of
arable to pasture. Its use as pasture for a long period of years gave
it the needed rest and restored its fertility, and pasture land which
could bear crops was being brought again under cultivation during the
centuries in which the enclosure movement was most marked.


[112] Lamond, _op. cit._, p. 49.

[113] 4 H. 4, c. 2. Miss Leonard calls attention to this statute.
"Inclosure of Common Land in the Seventeenth Century." _Royal Hist.
Soc. Trans._, New Series, vol. xix, p. 101, note 2.

[114] _Cf. supra_, p. 27.

[115] Gonner, _Common Land and Inclosure_, p. 162.

[116] Leonard, _op. cit._, p. 140, note 2.

[117] Lamond, _op. cit._, p. 90.

[118] _Ibid._, pp. 56-57.

[119] _Description of Britain_ (_Holinshed Chronicles_, London, 1586), p.

[120] Leonard, _op. cit._, vol. xix, p. 120.

[121] _Surveyinge_, ch. 28.

[122] _Ibid._, ch. 32.

[123] Denton, _England in the Fifteenth Century_, p. 150.

[124] "Rome's Fall Reconsidered," _Political Science Quarterly_, vol.
xxxi, pp. 217, 220.

[125] Lamond, _Common Weal of this Realm of England_, pp. 19-20.

[126] Tawney, _Agrarian Problem in the Sixteenth Century_, pp. 254-255.

[127] Tawney, _op. cit._, p. 256.

[128] Carew, as quoted by Leonard, _op. cit._, vol. xix, p. 137.

[129] "Enclosures in England," _Quarterly Journal of Ec._, vol. xvii, p.

[130] Lennard, _Rural Northamptonshire_, pp. 73-4.

[131] The reason stated in the preamble of many of the Durham decrees
granting enclosure permits (Leonard, _op. cit._, p. 117).

[132] 5 & 6 Ed. 6, c. 5. Re-enacted by 5 El., c. 2.

[133] Memorandum addressed by Alderman Box to Lord Burleigh in 1576,
Gonner, _op. cit._, p. 157.

[134] 39 El., ch. 2, proviso iii.

[135] _Ibid._, proviso iv.

[136] Bland, Brown & Tawney: _Select Documents_, p. 272.

[137] Cunningham, _Growth of English Industry and Commerce, Modern
Times_, part ii, p. 99.

[138] _Ibid._, p. 99.

[139] Lamond, _op. cit._, p. lxiii.

[140] Cullum, _Hawsted_, pp. 235-243.

[141] Leonard, "Inclosure of Common Fields in the Seventeenth
Century," _Royal Hist. Soc. Trans._, N. S., vol. xix, p. 141, note.

[142] For this controversy see, "The Inquisitions of Depopulation in
1517 and the 'Domesday of Inclosures,'" by Edwin F. Gay and I. S.
Leadam, _Royal Hist. Soc. Trans._, 1900, vol. xiv, pp. 231-303.

[143] Simkhovitch, _Political Science Quarterly_, vol. xxviii, pp.
400, 401.

[144] _Board of Agriculture Report, Norfolk_, ch. vi.

[145] _Ibid._, ch. vi.

[146] _Ibid._

[147] Bland, Brown and Tawney, _op. cit._, pp. 530-531.


  Abbot's Ripton, 61

  Arable, 11;
    area reduced, 22, 24, 27, 54-56, 70, 80;
    barren, 12, 16-17, 23, 47, 49, 55-56, 58, 62, 70, 72, 79, 81,
            97-99, 101, 106;
    fertility restored, 13, 41-42, 46-47, 81-82, 98-99, 101, 103;
    converted to pasture, 11-12, 14, 18-19, 23, 27-28, 30, 32, 35-36,
                          58, 71, 84, 88, 90, 99;
    cultivation resumed, 12, 15-16, 31, 33, 84, 99-101;
    lea strips, 41, 79-84, 87, 106;
    enclosed, 83-84, 102

  Ashley, 33

  Bacon, 99

  Bailiff-farming, 50, 70, 73-74

  Ballard, 20, 50, 59-60, 63, 70, 77

  Barley, 37, 56

  Beggars, 70

  Berkeley estates, 23, 27, 58, 63, 83

  Black Death, 16, 18-23, 38, 41, 56-57, 60, 67

  Bolam, 80

  Bond land deserted, 16, 21, 56-57, 60-61, 66, 70, 72;
    refused, 59;
    no competition for, 21;
    vacant, 22-23, 57-58, 62, 66, 72;
    compulsory holding of, 21, 57, 59-60, 62, 72;
    leased, 23, 57, 62, 75-76;
    rents of, 16, 20-21, 57-58, 63, 66-68

  Brightwell, 68

  Burwell, 61

  Cattle, 48-49, 69, 91, 102

  Carew, _Survey of Cornwell_, 33

  Chatteris, 70

  Clover, 102, 104

  Combe, 51

  Commissions on enclosure, engrossing, etc., 15, 30, 84

  Common-field system, 11, 48, 85;
    stability of, 82, 85, 87, 103;
    disintegration of, chapter III

  Commutation of villain services, 19, 56-57, 64-69, 73, 105

  Concessions to villains, 57, 59, 62-64, 66, 69;
    see villain services, rents

  Conversion, arable to pasture, 11-12, 14, 18-19, 23, 27-28, 30, 32,
                                 35-36, 39-43, 58, 71, 84, 88, 90, 99;
    pasture to arable, 19, 31, 34-36, 39-43, 84;
    both, 19, 35-36, 39-43, 84;
    reconversion of open-field land formerly laid to grass, 13, 15-16,
                                                    31, 33, 84, 99-101

  Convertible husbandry, 41-42, 81-82, 84, 102

  Corbett, 78

  Corn-laws, 33-34

  Cornwall, 33

  Cost of living, 92

  Crawley, 59

  Crops, 48, 102-104

  Cross-plowing, 78

  Cunningham, 32

  Curtler, 13

  Demesne, leased, 19-20, 57, 73;
    intermixed with tenant land, 94-95

  Denton, 13, 27, 91

  Depopulation, 27-30, 94, 96

  Desertion, 16, 21, 56-57, 60-61, 66, 70, 72

  Downton, 50, 68

  East Brandon, 79

  Emparking, 27

  Enclosed land, pasture, 33, 87;
    tilled, 83-84, 102;
     convertible husbandry, 41-42, 81, 84, 101-102

  Enclosure, defined, 11-12;
    progress of, 27-43, 87-88;
    early, 16, 18-19, 22-23, 27, 58;
    seventeenth century, 12, 17, 31, 35-37, 39, 88;
    eighteenth century, 31, 103-104;
    causes, see productivity, soil-exhaustion, prices;
    social consequences, 15, 29-30, 97,
        see depopulation, unemployment, eviction;
    literature of, 14-15;
    opposition to, 82, 93;
    effect on quality of wool, 33;
    for sheep-farming, 12, 19, 22, 24, 28, 37, 42-44, 83-84, 87-88,
                       90, 96, 98;
    enclosed land cultivated, 83-84, 102

  Engrossing, 75;
    see holdings, amalgamation of

  Eviction of tenants, 12, 15, 27, 30, 38, 90, 94, 96

  Fallow, 11, 47, 85, 87, 106;
    see pasture, lea land

  Fertility, see productivity, soil-exhaustion;
    fertility restored, 13, 41-42, 46-47, 81-82, 98-99, 101, 103

  Fines, 59

  Fitzherbert, 41, 77-79, 81-82, 91

  Forage, 49, 91, 102

  Forncett, 51, 61, 63, 84

  Gay, Professor E. F., 15, 96, 102

  Gonner, E. C. K., 13, 88

  Gorleston, 77

  Grafton Park, 34

  Gras, Norman, 51

  Gray, H. L., 79

  Grazing, 11, 18, 46;
    profits from, 80;
    see sheep-farming, pasture

  Hales, John, 86, 89, 92, 100

  Harrison, Description of Britain, 89

  Hasbach, 13

  Hawsted, 100

  Hay, 48-49, 91, 102

  Heriots, 69

  Holdings, deserted, 16, 21, 56-57, 60-61, 66, 70, 72;
    refused by heir, 59;
    vacant, 22-23, 57-58, 62, 66, 72;
    intermixed, 11, 77-78, 85, 94-95;
    amalgamated, 12, 56, 74-75;
    divided, 76

  Holway, 41

  Houses, destruction of, 90

  _Husbandry_, Anonymous, 51

  Innes, 32

  Isle of Wight, 28, 76

  Labor, supply of, 18, 22-23, 38, 41;
    see wages, unemployment

  Landlords, enclosure by, 12, 96, 100, 106

  Leadam, 102

  Lea-land, 41, 79, 80-84, 87, 106

  Lee, Joseph, 101

  Leicestershire, 15

  Leonard, E. M., 15, 27, 35-36, 40, 88

  Levett, A. E., 20, 50, 59-60, 63, 70, 77

  Manorial system, readjustments in fourteenth century, 19 _et seq._

  Manure, 41-42, 46-50, 78, 90, 102;
    see sheep-fold, marl

  Markets, local, 105

  Marl, 46, 50, 90-91, 104

  Meadow, 48-49

  Meredith, 32

  Merton College, 51

  Money-economy, 105;
    see commutation of services

  Monson, Lord, 34

  More, Sir Thomas, 29-30

  Nailesbourne, 60, 64

  North, Lord, 90

  Northwald, 104

  Open-field land, see common-field system, enclosures, lea-land

  Page, 60-61, 68

  Pasture, waste, 46, 49, 93;
    fallow pasture, 11, 49, 82, 85, 93;
    lea strips, 41, 79-84, 87, 106;
    enclosed, 33, 82, 87;
    converted to arable, 19, 31, 34, 36, 39-43, 84;
    profits of, 12, 18, 30, 32-33, 107;
    leased, 100

  Pauperism, see poverty

  Pembroke, 41

  Population, 34

  Poverty, villains, 16, 21, 56, 59, 67-69, 72, 106;
    small tenants, 87, 90-91, 97

  Prices, sixteenth century, 92;
    wool and wheat, 12, 17-19, 24-33, 36-37, 40, 53;
    seventeenth century, 36-37

  Productivity, 14, 38, 41, 44-48, 50-56, 90;
    see soil-exhaustion

  Profits, tillage, 22, 34, 39, 41, 58, 70, 72, 89-92;
    pasture, 12, 18, 30, 32-33, 96, 107

  Protests against enclosures, 14-15, 38

  Prothero, 13

  Reconversion, pasture to arable, 12, 15-16, 31, 33, 84, 90, 101

  Rents, 16, 20-21, 57-58, 63, 66-68, 73, 89-90, 95

  Rogers, J. T., 17, 26, 31, 39

  Rotation of crops, 11, 103-104

  Rothamsted Experiment Station, 44

  Rous, 27, 88

  Russell, 44, 46-47, 49

  Seager, 17

  Seligman, 17

  Sheep, 12, 29

  Sheep-farming, 12, 19, 22, 24, 28, 37, 42-44, 83-84, 87-88, 90, 96, 98

  Sheep-fold, 49-50

  Simkhovitch, 13, 17, 47-48, 91

  Smyth, John, 23, 58

  Soil-exhaustion, 12, 16-17, 23, 47, 49, 55-56, 58, 62, 70, 72, 79-81,
                   97-99, 101, 106

  Statutes of husbandry, 28, 30, 39-40, 75-76, 88, 97-99

  Stiffkey, 103

  Stock and land lease, 73

  Strips, 11, 85, 94-95;
    exchanged, 77

  Tawney, 77

  Tenants, elimination of, 87;
    evicted, 12, 15, 27, 30, 38, 90, 94, 96;
    poverty, 87, 90-91, 97;
    enclosure by, 15, 82-87;
    opposition to enclosure, 82, 93;
    rents of, 89-90, 95

  Therfield, 60, 61

  Turf-borders, 11;
    plowed under, 78

  Turnips, 102-104

  Tusser, 41, 79, 82

  Twyford, 59

  Unemployment, 28, 30, 38

  Utopia, 29-30

  Villains, poverty, 16, 21, 56, 59, 67-69, 72, 106;
    compelled to take land, 21, 57, 59-60, 62, 72;
    desertion of, 16, 21, 56-57, 60-61, 66, 70, 72;
    social status with relation to commutation, 20, 57, 65, 67-68

  Villain-services, 58-59;
    reduced, 21, 62-64, 72;
    commuted, 19-20, 56-57, 62, 64-69, 73, 105;
    sold, 64, 66, 105;
    excused, 70-71;
    leased, 73;
    retained, 67

  Vinogradoff, 65-66

  Virgate, 74;
    value of services, 62-63

  Wages, 18, 36-39, 72-73

  Walter of Henley, 51, 53

  Waste, 12, 46, 49, 93, 98

  Westmoreland, Countess of, 36

  Weston, 61, 68

  Westwick, 80

  Wheat, yield, 47, 50-56, 90;
    prices, 12, 17-19, 24-31, 32-33, 36-37, 40, 53

  Whorlton, 80

  Winchester, Bishopric of, 20, 50, 51-54, 60-61, 63, 70, 77

  Witney, 51-53, 55-56, 67-68

  Wool, demand for, 12, 22, 24-25, 29, 32, 42, 43;
    price of, 12, 17-19, 22, 24-33;
    quality, 33

  Woollen industry, expansion of, 12, 22, 24-25

  Woolston, 59

  Young, Arthur, 104

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  Transcriber's Notes:

  Passages in italics indicated by underscore _italics_.

  The following printing errors were corrected:
    "it" corrected to "is" (page 16/172)
    ' corrected to " (page 27/183)
    "villians" corrected to "villains" (page 67/223)
    missing closing quotation mark added (page 69/225)
    "sieze" corrected to "seize" (page 69/225)
    "demense" corrected to "demesne" (page 73/229, 3 times)
    missing "to added (page 78/234) (although not [to] be ignored)
    "and and" corrected to "and" (page 80/236)

  Footnote [38] has no corresponding marker in the text.

  Page 78 contains three footnote markers (two of which are marked
  with the same number - [99]) but only two footnotes.

  Additional spacing after some of the block quotes is intentional
  to indicate both the end of a quotation and the beginning of a
  new paragraph as is in the original text.

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