Enclosure (sometimes in-closure) was the legal process in England during the 18th century of enclosing a number of small landholdings to create one larger farm. Once enclosed, use of the land become restricted to the owner, and it ceased to be common land for communal use. In England and Wales the term is also used for the process that ended the ancient system of arable farming in open fields. Under enclosure, such land is fenced (enclosed) and deeded or entitled to one or more owners. The process of enclosure began to be a widespread feature of the English agricultural landscape during the 16th century. By the 19th century, unenclosed commons had become largely restricted to rough pasture in mountainous areas and to relatively small parts of the lowlands.
Enclosure could be accomplished by buying the ground rights and all common rights to accomplish exclusive rights of use, which increased the value of the land. The other method was by passing laws causing or forcing enclosure, such as Parliamentary enclosure. The latter process of enclosure was sometimes accompanied by force, resistance, and bloodshed, and remains among the most controversial areas of agricultural and economic history in England. Marxist and neo-Marxist historians argue that rich landowners used their control of state processes to appropriate public land for their private benefit.
The process of enclosure created a landless working class that provided the labour required in the new industries developing in the north of England. For example: “In agriculture the years between 1760 and 1820 are the years of wholesale enclosure in which, in village after village, common rights are lost”. Thompson argues that “Enclosure (when all the sophistications are allowed for) was a plain enough case of class robbery.”
W. A. Armstrong, among others, argued that this is perhaps an oversimplification, that the better-off members of the European peasantry encouraged and participated actively in enclosure, seeking to end the perpetual poverty of subsistence farming. “We should be careful not to ascribe to [enclosure] developments that were the consequence of a much broader and more complex process of historical change.” “[T]he impact of eighteenth and nineteenth century enclosure has been grossly exaggerated …”
Enclosure is considered one of the causes of the British Agricultural Revolution. Enclosed land was under control of the farmer who was free to adopt better farming practices. There was widespread agreement in contemporary accounts that profit making opportunities were better with enclosed land. Following enclosure, crop yields increased while at the same time labor productivity increased enough to create a surplus of labor. The increased labor supply is considered one of the causes of the Industrial Revolution. Marx argued in Capital that enclosure played a constitutive role in the revolutionary transformation of feudalism into capitalism, both by transforming land from a means of subsistence into a means to realize profit on commodity markets (primarily wool in the English case), and by creating the conditions for the modern labor market by transforming small peasant proprietors and serfs into agricultural wage-laborers, whose opportunities to exit the market declined as the common lands were enclosed.
Which is why EVERYTHING falls under the Department of “Agriculture”. Think… STATE FARM!
Enclosure of manorial common land was authorized by the Statute of Merton (1235) and the Statute of Westminster (1285).
Throughout the medieval and modern periods, piecemeal enclosure took place in which adjacent strips were fenced off from the common field. This was sometimes undertaken by small landowners, but more often by large landowners and lords of the manor. Significant enclosures (or emparkments) took place to establish deer parks. Some (but not all) of these enclosures took place with local agreement.
The Statute of Merton or Provisions of Merton (Latin: Provisiones de Merton, or Stat. Merton), sometimes also known as the Ancient Statute of Merton, is considered to be the first English statute, and is printed as the first statute in The Statutes of the Realm.
The terms of the statute were agreed at Merton between Henry III and the barons of England in the 20th year of Henry’s reign (1235). It was another instance, along with the Magna Carta twenty years previously, of the struggle between the barons and the king to limit the latter’s rights.
Amongst its provisions, the statute allowed a Lord of the Manor to enclose common land (provided that sufficient pasture remained for his tenants), and set out when and how manorial lords could assert rights over waste land, woods, and pastures against their tenants. It quickly became a basis for English common law, developing and clarifying legal concepts of ownership, and was one of the English statutes carried over into the law of the Lordship of Ireland.
The “waste land” is the abandoned AFTERBIRTH or waste material DNA!