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18 June 2014
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© Mary Evans Picture Library
Enclosure and Resistance in Oxfordshire: A Tradition of Disorder?

The history of work is dominated by the assumption that labour was regular and remunerated. While this may be true of modern societies in which wage-earning is the most common form of economic relationship between employer and employee, it was emphatically not the case in the rural communities of England between the 16th and the early 19th Centuries, an agrarian economy in which self-provisioning in food and fuel was central to the maintenance of most households.

Crucial to this system of self-provision was the existence of common land, which the agricultural labourer and his family might use for pasture or fuel to supplement their income. Enclosure of this land, and removal of the labourer’s customary rights, posed a serious threat to the household economies of the labouring poor. Popular consciousness of the value of these rights, and of the likely consequences of their loss, is demonstrated by the tradition of resistance to enclosure within Oxfordshire. More...

Words: Steve Hindle - University of Warwick

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