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7 - The land

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 June 2012

Bruce M. S. Campbell
Affiliation:
Queen's University of Belfast
Rosemary Horrox
Affiliation:
University of Cambridge
W. Mark Ormrod
Affiliation:
University of York
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Summary

Today, at the beginning of the third millennium, agriculture employs only 2 per cent of the United Kingdom's workforce and contributes less than 0.1 per cent to the national income. Agriculture and land use, like so much else, are matters of government policy: regulated, subsidised and monitored. In the middle ages it was otherwise. Then, agriculture dominated the economy. At least three-quarters of England's national income came from agriculture, and agricultural products, processed and unprocessed, accounted for the vast majority of all exports. To achieve this required most of the land, the bulk of the labour force, much of the capital, and a great deal of the management talent available within the national economy. For many, farming was an occupation; for some, it was a business pursued for profit; but for none was it as yet an industry. In an almost exclusively organic and animate age, the mechanisation and industrialisation of agriculture remained a long way in the future. Without direct government intervention, it was up to individual producers how they coped with problems and responded to opportunities. There was no welfare system to cushion those overwhelmed by the challenges and misfortunes that periodically confronted all who strove to make a living from the land. Although land was prized primarily for its capacity to produce the essentials of life, its amenity value was not unappreciated. Above all, throughout the middle ages control and ownership of land conferred power, wealth and prestige.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2006

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  • The land
  • Edited by Rosemary Horrox, University of Cambridge, W. Mark Ormrod, University of York
  • Book: A Social History of England, 1200–1500
  • Online publication: 05 June 2012
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781139167154.008
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  • The land
  • Edited by Rosemary Horrox, University of Cambridge, W. Mark Ormrod, University of York
  • Book: A Social History of England, 1200–1500
  • Online publication: 05 June 2012
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781139167154.008
Available formats
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Save book to Google Drive

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

  • The land
  • Edited by Rosemary Horrox, University of Cambridge, W. Mark Ormrod, University of York
  • Book: A Social History of England, 1200–1500
  • Online publication: 05 June 2012
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781139167154.008
Available formats
×