The Social Consequences of the Changes in 18-century Rural England

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The Social Consequences of the Changes in 18-century Rural England

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. He


4"Now this sweet vision of my boyish hours

Free as spring clouds and wild as summer flowers

Is faded all-a hope that blossomed free

And hath been once more shall never be


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... 9 MARX K, Capital 1, (London 1976 edn), chs. 26-30

10Letter to the Bishop of Lincoln,1796, Reflections on the cruelty of

enclosure, pp 6,7,(see J.M Neeson, Commoners: common right, enclosure

and social change in England, 1700-1820)

11CHAMBERS J.D., 1940, Economic History Review

12 DAUNTON M.J., 1995, Progress and Property, pp108-110

13 YOUNG A., 1771, The Farmers Tour through the east of England

14SINCLAIR Sir JOHN, 1803, President of the board of agriculture, (see

Turner M., 1984, Enclosures in Britain1750-1830)

Other reading

COURT W.H.B., 1958, The Concise Economic History of British from 1750

to Recent Times, Cambridge University press.

HUDSON P, 1993, The Industrial Revolution, New York: Routeledge

POPE R, 1989, Atlas of British Social and Economic History-since

c.1700, London: Routledge

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