Friday, December 7, 2012

History: The English Enclosure

During the Industrial Revolution,
many machines in the factories
were made to the height of children
due to the amount of child
workers back in the days.
The Enclosure Act was an important event that contributed to the beginning of the Industrial Revolution in Europe, and it also marked the end of the agricultural Open Field System. Under the Act, the uses of common land became limited as arable land all had to be fenced (enclosed). Before the Enclosure Act, peasants worked on the riches' land for food; as a return, the poor paid their landlord with the profit from selling crops. During the 16th century, the English land owners began to realize that raising sheep for wool harvesting was much more profitable than farming, and it also required less workers. The process of the Enclosure Acts was a period accompanied by bloodshed, force, violence, and injustice as the rich and the poor fought for each of their own gains or rights.

This diagram shows the before and after impact of the Enclosure Act in England.
The peasants were at a great disadvantage in this fight for equality--they were illiterate, powerless, and poor. Eventually, the rich had their ways and stripped away most of the farmlands available  the poor were then left jobless and had no ways of continuing with the life they once knew. Helpless, the peasants had no choice but to look elsewhere for other ways of survival; this was when they began to move into the cities, where the growing manufacturing industry was in great demand of workers. As a large population of factory workers emerged, the businesses of the factories flourished, leading to the Industrial Revolution. 

Over London by Rail, a print by Gustave Doré (circa 1870). This portrait of Great Britain at the start of the Second Industrial Revolution illustrates the cramped living conditions which were created as rural-to-urban migration brought displaced agricultural workers to the cities. Image from London: A Pilgrimage (1872).
Over London by Rail, Gustave Dore. This
print shows the cramped living conditions
of the Industrial Revolution in London
To examine the root causes of The Enclosure Act, one must take in consideration of major events taking place during the 18th century, such as: an increasing population and inflation. The King at the time, Henry VIII, spent too much money on wars and luxurious indulgences, causing the wealth of the country to dramatically decrease and thus results in nation-wide inflation. The wealthy and greedy landowners felt threatened by the bad economy, therefore had to come up with more efficient ways of managing their lands and income. This was how they soon came to the resolution of replacing farming with sheep raising, and thus began the fight of Enclosure. 













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Citation:

"A Short History of Enclosure in Britain." The Land Magazine. Accessed December 7, 2012
 http://www.thelandmagazine.org.uk/articles/short-history-enclosure-britain.

"Inclosure Act 1773." Legislation UK. Accessed December 7, 2012.              

http://www.legislation.gov.uk/apgb/Geo3/13/81/contents.

"The English Enclosures." Youtube. Video file, 9:43. Accessed December 7, 2012. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l0nM5DU4ADI.

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