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The social consequences of the changes in 18-century rural England have caused controversy amongst contemporaries and historians. Why have the changes caused so much controversy?

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Introduction

The social consequences of the changes in 18-century rural England have caused controversy amongst contemporaries and historians. Why have the changes caused so much controversy? During the 18th century, there was a drastic change within England; this was all due to the introduction of Parliamentary Enclosure. The act, although very controversial, was passed in 'national interest'. The reason it was so controversial was that an act passed in the 'national interest' should have taken into consideration the people it affected the most, but the majority (commoners) who it severely affected were not consulted. The commoner's rights and land was taken by enclosure, and the compensation they received was minimal. Thompson recognised that 1" Enclosure (when all sophistication's are allowed for) was a plain case of class robbery, played according to the fair rules of property and law laid down by a parliament of property-owners and lawyers." This was generally true as it seems the only people who gained from enclosure were the rich landowners; Dr R. Price stated that 2"....modern policy is, indeed, more favourable to the higher classes of people...". The Hammonds exposed3" damaging social consequences of enclosure, because it destroyed the social fabric of village and eventually was fatal to three classes, the small farmer, cottager and squatter". During the 18-century, a labourer called John Clare wrote a poem about how the majority felt, a poem that can not be ignored when taking enclosure into account and the damage it caused the labourer. ...read more.

Middle

Whether this was down to just enclosure it's unsure, but was probably a combination of better farming methods, crop rotation, improving road systems and enclosure. With the changes in how farming was conducted came changes in the reasons for farming. The reasons for farming changed drastically, from self-sufficient farming, to capitalist farming. The reason for the change was not out of a necessity for the family, plain and simply it was for profit. The cereal crop prices had increased to a level were there was a considerable profit to be made. The price increase is to be blamed for the surge in enclosures in the 1770's, as the profit motivated farmers to increase the applications for enclosure, so they could produce more cereal crops and therefore receive a larger profit. 8" Nowhere save in Britain was the peasantry virtually eliminated before the acceleration of economic growth. That is associated with the development of industrial capitalism..." This was good news for the rich and landowners as it made them more money and consequently brought money into the countryside. This in turn left a little money to spend on a few luxuries. Marx 9"....saw enclosures and the growth of capitalist agriculture pushing disposed workers off the land and propelling the newly proletarianised into industrial wage dependency or pauperism." As Marx points out there was a great loss from society's standpoint during the enclosure. ...read more.

Conclusion

13"Before enclosure rent was 14 shillings and after it rose to 28 shillings on arable land, and on grass from 40 shillings to �3". Also if the landlord found reason to join two tenancies together, the tenant farmers concerned had no say in the matter, either comply or be evicted. Looking at the situation overall the conclusion is, enclosure did the country and the countryside more good than harm. There could have been more consideration for the commoners at the time, but as with everything else, there is always a victim and a victor. In fact, there was a trade off between economical gains with social costs. Without the improvements and modernisation in farming techniques, the yield would not of increased in proportion to the population and the food prices would not off been lowered. Through the rotation of crops, cattle were able to survive through the winter by being fed on turnips, and therefore giving fresh meat for the winter months. The landlords collected more rent, bringing money into the countryside; this is shown by an increase of banks in rural areas from 100 in the 17-century to 800 in the beginning of the 18-century. Sir John Sinclair (President of the board of Agriculture 1803) was right when he said, 14"Let us not be satisfied with the liberation of Egypt, or the subjugation of Malta. But let us subdue Finchely Common, let us conquer Hounslow Heath, let us compel Epping Forest to submit to the yoke of improvement. ...read more.

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