The enclosure movement resulted in the division of formerly public agricultural and grazing land into smaller plots of private property. It first began and developed in England, and then later became policy in most of the rest of Europe.
Before the enclosure movement, when land was not being cultivated, it was available to the community for grazing of livestock and other needs. Enclosing land using fences or hedges cut off the land for common use and made it available only to one farmer or landowner. Theoretically, this increased the efficiency of land use.
The enclosure movement began in England in the 12th century, but it became more popular from 1450-1640 when aristocracy wanted to increase the size of their manorial lands. During the British Agricultural Revolution in the 18th and 19th centuries, the enclosure movement helped to increase agricultural productivity to meet the needs of the burgeoning population. By the close of the 19th century, the enclosure movement was all but complete throughout England.
The mainland of Europe was much slower to catch on to enclosure. The German, French and Danish governments didn't begin to officially encourage enclosure until the late-18th century. Poland and Czechoslovakia didn't encourage enclosure until after World War I in the 20th century. There are still large areas of mainland Europe open to community use.