What Effect Did the Enclosure Movement Have on Farmers?

The enclosure movement converted agriculture from a largely communal, shared enterprise into one dominated by private interests, according to The Land Magazine. Enclosure is the process of privatizing common lands, allowing landowners to take the profits from farming or livestock operations instead of sharing the results among an entire community. This established the concept of private land ownership, where previously only nobility could lay claim to land.

Before enclosure, many villages were surrounded by what were called "common" fields. This meant the land was available for anyone to use. Commoners could plant their own crops, graze their livestock or harvest grass hay as long as their efforts did not interfere with another person's use of the land. Enclosure took away these common rights, under the presumption that large farming or livestock operations were more efficient than the small plots of land worked by individual commoners. Commonly, tilled land became pasture, allowing the landowners to raise large herds of sheep, which were relatively easy to manage despite requiring lots of land for fodder. The resulting loss of arable land destroyed entire villages, forcing the inhabitants to move elsewhere in order to survive. It also allowed the first large-scale commercial farming operations, a model that survived into the modern era.