During the 1700s, rapid population growth in Britain increased the demand for food. As a result, food prices began to rise. Farmers realised they could make a profit if they could produce food more efficiently. Before the Industrial Revolution, agriculture was Britain’s most important industry. Most of the land was owned by wealthy land owners who either farmed the land themselves or rented it out to farmers. During this time, farming land was organised under the open field system
During the 1700s, rapid population growth in Britain ____________ the demand for food. As a result, food prices began to ______. Farmers realised they could make a profit if they could produce food more ____________. Before the Industrial Revolution, __________ was Britain’s most important industry. Most of the land was owned by wealthy land owners who either farmed the land themselves or _______ it out to farmers. During this time, farming land was organised under the open field system
Open field farming • History • Open fields appear to have developed in the medieval period, and were particularly well suited to the very heavy ploughs that were used to cut through the heavy clay soils common in north-western Europe. The ox teams which pulled the ploughs were very expensive, and thus tended to be shared among the families of a village. This form of settlement is sometimes referred to as champion land. • Each village would be surrounded by several large open fields, usually not physically divided from each other, with each field containing a different crop as part of a three-field crop rotation. The fields would be split into sections a furlong (220 yards, about 200 metres) wide, each of which would be subdivided cross-wise into strips covering an area of half an acre (about 0.2 hectares) or less. Under their commoner's rights, each villager was allocated a set number of strips in each field (traditionally about thirty) which they would subsistence-farm. The strips were generally allocated bylot in a public meeting at the start of the year. The individual holdings were widely scattered, so that no single farmer would end up with all the good or bad land. The land was usually managed usingridge and furrow cultivation. • In addition to the three fields, there would be large commonmeadows (allocated in strips in a similar way), common pasture land or waste where the villagers would graze their livestock throughout the year, woodland for the pigs and for timber, and a communal village green for social events. There was also some private fenced land (paddocks, orchards and gardens), called closes, and often also a park for the use of the owner of the manor for hunting. The ploughed fields and the meadows were also used for livestock grazing outside the growing season. • As populations increased, the land available for each family diminished as more strips were required. From the late Middle Ages onwards, a gradual movement towards consolidation took place as small plots were amalgamated into fewer but larger holdings, with a corresponding increase in the power of the landowners. • England • Contrary to popular belief, not all areas of England had open-field farming in the medieval period. Parts of south-east England, notably parts of Essex and Kent, retained a pre-Roman system of farming in small, square, enclosed fields. In much of west and north-west England, fields were similarly either never open, or enclosed earlier. The primary area of open field management was in the lowland areas of England in a broad swath from Yorkshire and Lincolnshire diagonally across England to the south, taking in parts of Norfolk and Suffolk, Cambridgeshire, large areas of theMidlands, and most of south central England. This area was some of the most populous and profitable; it was also the main grain-growing region (as opposed to pastoral farming). • From as early as the 12th century, some open fields in Britain were being enclosed into individually owned fields. In Great Britain, the process sped up during the 15th and 16th centuries as sheepfarming grew more profitable. In the 16th and early 17th centuries, the practice of enclosure (particularly depopulating enclosure) was denounced by the Church and the government, and legislation was drawn up against it. However, the tide of elite opinion began to turn towards support for enclosure, and the rate of enclosure increased in the seventeenth century. This led to a series of government acts addressing individual regions, which were given a common framework in theInclosure Consolidation Act of 1801. • Throughout the 19th century, the developments in Britain were exported across the world, and the various effects upon the working population of warfare and increased mechanization finally finished off the open field system.
The Open Field System • Explain how the open field system worked. • Draw a picture of the open field system in your notebook. • What was the village common? • How did a village common benefit the people of the poorer classes? • List 3 disadvantages of the open field system. • How did this system advantage the poorer farmers?
The Enclosed System In the 1740s, laws were changed and the enclosed system was introduced. Under the enclosed system, smaller parts in open fields were combined into bigger farms and fenced off. Poorer farmers lost their land, while wealthy farmers were able to grow more crops and make more money. Despite causing hardships for many smaller farmers, enclosures led to innovation in farming techniques and increased production. Enclosed system farming 1. What were some of the innovations to farming brought about through the enclosed system?
Urbanisation What do you think urbanisation means? People who lost their land or their livelihood had little choice but to move from the country to the towns to find work. When industry began to grow, there was plenty of cheap labour available to work in the factories. The large numbers moving from rural to urban areas combined with rapid population growth meant that competition for jobs was fierce. When people did find jobs they had to work for long hours for very low wages.
Writing a PEC Paragraph How did changes to ways of farming contribute to poor working conditions for poorer people in England?
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