The parliamentary enclosure movement in Leicestershire: 1730-1842.
thesisposted on 19.11.2015, 09:12 by H. G. (Henry Gerald) Hunt
This thesis is a detailed study of several of the most controversial aspects of parliamentary enclosure. The extent to which some of the allegations of contemporary and modern writers can be applied to Leicestershire is examined, and the limitations of the historical sources for a statistical enquiry pointed out. This work has two principal objects. The first is to show why and how enclosures took place in this county, and to discover how far a conflict of interests between the various social classes arose. The work of the enclosure commission was of fundamental importance, and therefore the appointment and the procedure of the Leicestershire commissioners are examined in detail and their integrity assessed. The case study of the enclosure of Whitwick illustrates the nature and volume of pre-enclosure negotiations amongst the leading interests in the parish, and shows how the administrative and legal problems, which arose after the Act was passed, were overcome. A subsidiary study is made of the extent to which direct influence was exerted in the unreformed Commons over Members dealing with enclosure Bills. The second object is to analyse the principal social and economic effects of enclosure. Thus the factors bringing about changes in the distribution of landownership, notably the cost of enclosure and the commutation of tithes, are considered in detail. The land tax returns reveal that, although the large proprietors and farmers were steadily acquiring land, the effect of enclosure was not so revolutionary as is sometimes supposed. One hundred and nine parishes have been grouped according to the date of their complete enclosure, and the course of poor releif expenditure traced in each group. It is seen that, despite the large acreage converted to pasture in Leicestershire, enclosure was not one of the main causes of the great increases in the sums spent on the poor during the period under consideration. The widely differing circumstances of each parish, however, indivate the danger of broad generalisation in this field.