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in British history, the process of inclosing (with fences, ditches, hedges, or other barriers) land formerly subject to common rights. Such land included fields cultivated by the open-field or strip system, wasteland, and the common pasture land. Inclosure accompanied and accelerated the breakdown of the manorial systemmanorial system
or seignorial system
, economic and social system of medieval Europe under which peasants' land tenure and production were regulated, and local justice and taxation were administered.
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. In England the practice, dating from the 12th cent., received legal sanction through statutes (1235, 1285) permitting landlords to inclose wastelands on condition they left sufficient land for their free tenants. Its great development, however, came with the rapid expansion of the Flemish wool trade after the 14th cent. The monetary advantages resulting from intensive cultivation of large, fenced fields and particularly from the conversion of land into fenced sheep pastures moved landlords to make agreements with tenants or to expel them, illegally or for the slightest default, in order to inclose large areas. Under the Tudors, the hardship of dispossessed tenants, increasing vagrancy, and social unrest resulted in statutes designed to limit the practice. However, the process continued virtually unchecked, reaching its peak in the late 17th cent. In the early 18th cent. there was very little inclosure, but from 1750 to 1800 inclosure by private act of Parliament increased dramatically. The General Enclosure Act (1801) standardized much of the process, and an act of 1845 provided for the incorporation of all inclosures in a single act each year. By this time, however, the movement toward general inclosure was largely completed. Although the process remained harsh for the small farmer, the period of parliamentary inclosures paralleled a period of increasing industrial use of labor. Inclosed land did promote more efficient farming and was able to produce an ever-increasing agricultural output during the early 19th cent., when the population was growing rapidly.


See E. C. K. Gonner, Common Land and Inclosure (2d ed. 1912, repr. 1966); W. E. Tate, The English Village Community and the Enclosure Movements (1967).

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References in classic literature ?
"Moody did mention the inclosure in the letter--in Isabel Miller's hearing as well as in mine." She paused, steadily controlling herself.
"I say that Isabel Miller knew of the inclosure in my letter--and I ask, What of that?"
He returned--faithful to the engagement which he had undertaken--to his post before the inclosure. The chaise was then a speck in the distance.
(19.) "Inclosure [sic] 1 to Annex A to Memo Nr 12, Hq 5th SFG (Abn), 1st Special Forces" (26 December 1964) p.
The Inclosure Acts brought fences to separate formerly open land into many smaller fields, deer forests were being cut down, and arable land was increasing.
a solemn procession composed of two details of infantry, one in front of the prisoners and one in the rear, marched into the inclosure [sic]...
(49) For example, he extensively expounds the 1801 and 1845 Inclosure Acts, the 1821 Turnike Roads Act, the 1827 Excise Management Act, the 1833 Sewers Act, and the 1834 and 1847 Poor Laws.
In this inclosure or Parke [see the Akkadian pardesu having precisely this meaning whence the word paradise derives] are goodly meadowes, springs, rivers, red and fallow Deere, Fawnes carryed thither for the Hawkes, (of which are there mewed above two hundred Gerfalcons [i.e.
Between 1710, the date of the first Inclosure Act, and 1760, only 334,974 statute acres were inclosed, while, in the century which followed, more than seven millions of statute acres have been added to the cultivated area of Great Britain.
The case hinged around the land commissioner charged with turning medieval fields and commons across hundreds of villages in the 1801 Inclosure Consolidation Act.
The extraordinary complexity of land ownership at Borth Bog, which can be traced back to enactments authorising the "Inclosure of the Gors Fochno wastelands" in 1813, is a whole story in itself.