E. R. Chamberlin: Changes in English Agriculture

Agricultural efficiency has been continuously improving since the very beginning of food production.  In the 1700’s, land enclosure was a major factor in this increase in efficiency.  In his article Changes in English Agriculture, Chamberlin addresses the part that English government played in regulating the enclosure of land.  Because of the government’s role in land enclosure, agricultural food supply in 18th century England increased dramatically.

Throughout the mid 1700’s, Parliament helped increase agricultural efficiency, passing hundreds of private Bills of Enclosure.  It became clear that larger pieces of land were easier to farm than individual plots, and for this reason, Bills of Enclosure became very popular.  Prior to these bills, land was publicly shared and enclosed as smaller plots through informal agreements between neighbors.  However, a Bill of Enclosure served as a formal way to share farming land while individually owning smaller pieces.  With a Bill of Enclosure, all land holders specified in the bill combined their smaller plots, making one larger enclosed land plot.  Instead of several smaller plots, one shared larger plot made farming much more efficient.



The landscape of England changed dramatically as a result of the new enclosure of land.  Towns that had been composed of vast, communal fields were now broken up by hedges or fencing to separate pieces of land.  Although the shrubbery made for a more attractive landscape, it also made for a more secluded feel compared to the once open, unbroken view.

Though Bills of Enclosure did a great deal to increase food production, maintaining hundreds of individual bills became a tedious job for the English government.  To make bill maintenance easier, Parliament passed the General Enclosure Act in 1801.  Under the General Enclosure Act, entire villages could enclose their land as long as three-quarters of the population was in favor of doing so.  Parliament now only had to regulate a single bill from each village instead of the multiple that they had to maintain previously.  The General Enclosure Act led to increased efficiency in agricultural and organizational areas.

In addition to immensely increasing agricultural efficiency, the General Enclosure Act brought an increased sense of community.  Towns had to collectively advocate for and share land instead of smaller groups of individuals sharing land prior to the General Enclosure Act.  Other positive effects of the General Enclosure Act included decrease in land wastage, decrease in labor, and the usage of crop rotation, which added to the increase in food production.  With larger plots for farming, more land was occupied, leaving less wasted space.  Farming also became more efficient as larger land plots were easier to maintain, thus decreasing the amount of labor needed to supply food.  Because of the efforts made by the English government in the 18th century, food supply and agricultural efficiency increased dramatically. 


Word Count: 463

11 Replies to “E. R. Chamberlin: Changes in English Agriculture”

  1. Well done summarizing the article here. Something that I caught in the article was about the common man being able to raise maybe one cow and a few pigs while he owned a little slice of land. Once switched to the Enclosure system, they couldn’t do that anymore. In the second link
    one of the disadvantages even mentions how farmers who had animals on common land, got evicted when the Enclosure system kicked in; only if they owned no land however.

  2. Lauren,
    You did a very good job at summarizing the article and what the Enclosure Movement did for agriculture. However, you only seemed to outline the positives of it which there were very many, but there were also some negatives that Chamberlin outlined in the article. Also, there were some negatives that did not appear until later that the Enclosure Acts played a role in. This small question and answer summarizes just a few negative effects on peasant farmers.

  3. You did a great job showing how the English Government played a key role in the advancement of agriculture in England. I am glad that you pointed out that more than the efficiency was affected by the Act. I am glad you pointed out that it positively affected the social climate in England.
    Here’s a neat video on the enclosure movement.

  4. Great summary of the Enclosure Movement.
    I think one potential result brought by it is that the movement laid certain foundation for the Industrial Revolution. While the efficiency of farming increased, less peasants were required to stay on the farm. Therefore, they have to find something else to do to live on. One choice is moving to cities and they usually ended up working at factories.

  5. Lauren,
    I found your post very interesting. This is a thorough summary of the Enclosure Movement and the changes to English agriculture. I found it particularly interesting that you added the information about how efficiency was affected by the act. Overall, great job!

    – Tayler Anderson

  6. Great job of summarizing Chamberlin’s article, especially by emphasizing the effects of this new legislation and how it impacted communities of farmers. The picture you provided also helped to give a picture of what the Bills of Enclosure resulted in. I found the image that you used in your article in the pdf file below that another user has referenced also, and additionally, the site presented information about the benefits and drawbacks of the system, instead of focusing more on the benefits like Chamberlin’s article.


    The above site also gives information as to how many enclosure acts there were as well as the areas of England where they were most common.

  7. Well done writing in a clear manner. I learned a lot about the topic from your post. It was interesting to learn that, while the enclosure bill made farmland feel more secluded and less open, it increased crop production as farmers now shared larger fields while owning a portion of it.

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