Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
R. Louis Gentilcore
Traditionally, the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries in England have been considered a period of unprecedented change in farming techniques and output, of the 'Agricultural Revolution'. Current opinion sees agricultural change taking much longer, over several centuries of change and improvement. This thesis examines the contention that in Cumberland, a large county in northwest England, the period 1700 to 1850 did represent one of agricultural revolution. It is shown that isolation, a difficult physical environment, absentee landownership and peculiar tenures combined to retard improvement in both animal husbandry and field management. Although the common arable fields had largely disappeared by 1700, the huge common wastes were vital to the local agricultural economy. Encroachment on the wastes is seen as a tolerated method of increasing farm holdings; but the key change was enclosure. Examination of various physical and socioeconomic variables leads to the conclusion that altitude and slope were the dominant factors in distinguishing early from late enclosures: soil, agricultural potential, distance from urban areas and number of landowners involved do not seem to have been important. However, understanding is incomplete without considering the interplay of landlord and tenant: enfranchisement, intercommon and even personality conflicts played a part in the process. Overall, it is concluded that if there was a Cumberland agricultural revolution from 1700 to 1850 it was largely confined to the enclosure of the common wastes: that other forms of agricultural advance had to wait the later nineteenth or even the twentieth century. The thesis provides new or revised data on several matters, such as the number and size of common arable fields, and the rate of enclosure of the common wastes, and puts a wide range of agricultural changes in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries into context.
Dilley, Robert Sydney, "Agricultural change and common land in Cumberland, 1700-1850" (1991). Open Access Dissertations and Theses. Paper 3794.