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The Social Consequences Of The Changes In 18th Century Rural England Have Caused Controversy Amongst Contemporaries And Historians. Why Have The Changes Caused Such Controversy?

1445 words - 6 pages

In the following text we are going to review some of the issues which affected an 18th century rural England community, We will draw from evidence the social effects it had on the community from a contemporary's view and also a historians view. We will also consider why these two views might well be the cause of much controversy.In 18th century rural England, agriculture was the mainstay for the countries economy, so improvements in new farming methods were always looking to be amended. Farming techniques were always scrutinised and improved for benefit of produce and profit progression. However, the farming improvements were pretty much inoperable within an open field system so this, together with the food demand of an ever-increasing population brought about a relentless movement towards enclosure, of which we shall look at later on. Improved farming techniques include Charles Townsend's four field crop rotation system, this was a new farming system introduced to naturally rejuvenate the soil, consequentially of course, this meant farmers no longer had to leave some of their fields fallow each year in order for them to rejuvenate. Advances in stock, fertilizers and crops called for advancements in farm tools and machinery. Jethro Tull's seed planting drill was the first of many to aid agricultural progression. The seed drill planted seeds at uniform intervals and depths as opposed to the old method of broadcasting, which basically meant the inattentive hand throwing of seeds manually. Although advancements in machinery and tools were beneficial for material progress they in turn decreased the labour work required on the farms.Now we've recognised the changes in farming in regards to the techniques, let us take a look at Enclosure, which debatably had the most significant socially effective change as well as economic in rural England during the 18th century. In early 18th century England, much of the countryside was farmed as an open field system; this was very much in favour of farming for ones own needs rather than for commercial needs. It was however the case that open field farming was wasteful and also encouraged the spread of weeds and plant diseases, another negative side to the open field system was the hazard that unfenced animals presented, the problem of unfenced animals also made selective breeding pretty much impossible. However this open field system was not to be found everywhere. Enclosure meant joining the strips of open field to make larger compact pieces of land for unrestricted private use. Landowners would then rent these to tenants or obviously use it for their own personal and economic needs, and inevitably as food demand increased the landowners were able to increase rents as land became much sought after. There were two great periods of enclosure, these were the 1760's and the 1770's but there was also an increase in enclosure movements towards the end of the 18th century reaching into the 19th century (the Napoleonic...

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