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How The English People Became Landless


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History was never a great passion of mine, but the effect of the enclosure acts is quite fascinating.


Various attempts had been made before the Restoration to substitute a definite charge on land held under military tenure for these old rights of the Crown. The Restoration Parliament hit upon another device.

It decreed that the compensation to the Crown for the extinction of feudal incidents should take the form, not of a tax on land, but of an excise duty on the drinks, like beer and cyder, consumed by the poorest classes of the population.

Wages Subsidised from Local Taxation

The Speenhamland policy was a direct temptation to farmers to reduce wages arbitrarily, in order to throw the cost of working their farms in part upon the ratepayers, including the surviving small holders, who did not employ hired labour. It took away the incentive to exertion and undermined industrial discipline, since the labourer was as well off when he was unemployed as when he was working.

In combination with the bastardy laws, it stimulated illegitimate births to such an extent that, according to reports of the Poor Law Commission, great numbers of young women of the agricultural labour class could only hope to become wives by first becoming mothers.

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      • down 5% +
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