Effects of the Civil War

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Effects of the Civil War

Why was improvement so long delayed?

In the first place, the seventeenth century was disturbed politically.

The gentry - those who might invest only in farming improvements - were engaged in a political niggle which ended in a destructive Civil War.

The King fought the Parliament; the Parliament fought the army; the army fought the Scots ;.

all with equally disastrous results for farming. Land fell into neglect because its tillers were pressed to fight on one side or the other.

Trade was ruined by long blockades, and the progressive farmer was left without a market; farmers were taxed intolerably to support the rival armies, or compelled to supply them with provisions, without much hope of payment.

The confiscation of the Cavalier estates and their sale made fortunes for a few speculators; but these could but choose the get rich-quick methods of sheep-farming and rack-renting which had caused so much grievance in the sixteenth century.

One does not put money into long-term improvements in the midst of a revolution.

The Enclosure becomes Respectable.

Yet though the Civil Wars delayed agrarian changes for a time, their result was one more step towards ensuring that in the end such changes should come about on a large scale.

The victory of the Parliament, and the defeat of agrarian reformers like Winstanley's "Diggers ", was a victory for the country gentry and the commercial classes; in other words, for the sort of people who were able and ready to make landowning a financial proposition.

Especially it was a triumph for enclosures.

Enclosure, without which agricultural improvement was futile or impossible, had been frowned upon alike by Wolsey, Somerset, the Cecils and Laud Their attempts to put it down had not been very successful; but they had been successful enough to incur the enclosures' enmity.

I Restoration England the enclosure had become morally respectable, and the Government no longer even attempts to coerce him. The last anti-enclosing Act was passed 1651, and soon after 1660 comes the first of a series of private Acts authorizing enclosure. The Revolution of 1688 confirmed the victory.

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THE effects of the Tudor failure to cope with the agrarian problem were not immediately visible.

The seventeenth century was remarkable for its lack of spectacular change.

Enclosure went on steadily, but sporadically, still mostly for sheep-farming. Arable farmers were paying more attention to manure; new crops like clover and artificial grasses were introduced by the enterprising into the old crop-rotations.

The practice spread of "drowning" meadows in winter, in order to provide richer grass for cattle.

People were reading books, like Blith's English Improver, about better... see: THE NEW AGRIULTURE: THE END OF ENGLISH PEASANTRY

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