3. Peasants and Farmers
The Age Of Enclosures
(i) In the nineteenth century, grain production grew as quickly as population. Even though the population increased rapidly, in 1868 England was producing about 80 per cent of the food it consumed.
(ii) This increase in food-grain production was made possible not by any radical innovations in agricultural technology, but by bringing new lands under cultivation. Landlords sliced up pasturelands, carved up open fields, cut up forest commons, took over marshes, and turned larger and larger areas into agricultural fields
Importance of turnip and clover for farmers :
In about the 1660s that farmers in many parts of England began growing turnip and clover. They soon discovered that planting these crops improved the soil and made it more fertile. Turnip was, moreover, a good fodder crop relished by cattle. So farmers began cultivating turnips and clover regularly. These crops became part of the cropping system. Later findings showed that these crops had the capacity to increase the nitrogen content of the soil. Nitrogen was important for crop growth. Cultivation of the same soil over a few years depleted the nitrogen in the soil and reduced its fertility. By restoring nitrogen, turnip and clover made the soil fertile once again.
Enclosures were now seen as necessary to make long-term investments on land and plan crop rotations to improve the soil. Enclosures also allowed the richer landowners to expand the land under their control and produce more for the market.