Enclosure Acts

Until 1750 almost a quarter of the land in England was held not as exclusive private property, but in some form of joint ownership, where for at least part of the year the land was under communal control. This system is variously called the common field or open field system. In England common land was of many different types: arable and meadow which was private for part of the year, pasture which was common all year (but where access was limited), and "waste" land to which all members of the village community had free access. In England common land was often referred to as "open" land and private land as "enclosed" land, because generally individual plots of common land were unfenced and scattered in small parcels in large open fields, while private land was fenced.  

In England after 1740 a legal device called Parliamentary Enclosure, which required only that the owners of 75-80% of the land area agree to enclose, was widely employed to terminate common rights. The process is called "enclosure" because the elimination of common property was generally associated with physically fencing the land. Once the owners of the required share agreed, and Parliament passed the bill, a commission would be appointed to reallocate all the land of the village. About 21% of the land area of Britain was enclosed by Parliamentary Enclosure from 1750 to 1830 (Chapman, 1987). At least as much land was allegedly enclosed by private means before 1750.

Everyone agrees that rents rose precipitously immediately after enclosure. The data indicate that they commonly doubled and tripled and in some cases rose even more (Blum (1981), p. 503)