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This volume revisits a classic book by a famous historian: R.H. Tawney's 'Agrarian Problem in the Sixteenth Century' (1912). Tawney's 'Agrarian Problem' surveyed landlord-tenant relations in England between 1440 and 1660, the period of emergent capitalism and rapidly changing property relations that stands between the end of serfdom and the more firmly capitalist system of the eighteenth century. This transition period is widely recognised as crucial to Britain's long term economic development, laying the foundation for the Industrial Revolution of the eighteenth century. Remarkably, Tawney's book has remained the standard text on landlord-tenant relations for over a century. Here, Tawney's book is re-evaluated by leading experts in agrarian and legal history, taking its themes as a departure point to provide for a new interpretation of the agrarian economy in late Tudor and early modern Britain. The introduction looks at how Tawney's 'Agrarian Problem' was written, its place in the historiography of agrarian England and the current state of research. Survey chapters examine the late medieval period, a comparison with Scotland, and Tawney's conception of capitalism, whilst the remaining chapters focus on four issues that were central to Tawney's arguments: enclosure disputes, the security of customary tenure; the conversion of customary tenure to leasehold; and other landlord strategies to raise revenues. The balance of power between landlords and tenants determined how the wealth of agrarian England was divided in this crucial period of economic development - this book reveals how this struggle was played out. JANE WHITTLE is professor of rural history at Exeter University. Contributors: Christopher Brooks, Christopher Dyer, Heather Falvey, Harold Garrett-Goodyear, Julian Goodare, Elizabeth Griffiths, Jennifer Holt, Briony McDonagh, Jean Morrin, David Ormrod, William D. Shannon, Jane Whittle, Andy Wood. Foreword by Keith Wrightson
Introducing The Agrarian Problem of the Sixteenth Century, R. H. Tawney characterised the ‘problem’ of his title as a struggle between copyhold and leasehold. The ultimate triumph of the latter is confirmed by our familiarity with the terms of leasehold and leases: neither legal nor historical training is required to use the term in general conversation to refer to contractual tenures held for fixed terms and for fixed rents. Copyhold, on the other hand, belongs to a past era, an era in which tenures were ‘free’ or ‘unfree’, in which lords of manors held courts for their tenants, and in which custom within the manor was acknowledged as authoritative, independent of the common law enforced within royal courts. Emerging in the fifteenth century as the most common form of peasant tenure, copyhold acquired its name from the practice of giving a tenant a copy of the entry from the manorial court roll, which described terms on which the lord admitted the tenant and his heirs to the landholding. Those terms by the sixteenth century were routinely phrased ‘at the will of the lord, according to the custom of the manor’, and differences over interpretation of the copyhold title were, at least before the mid-sixteenth century, settled within the lord's manorial court, not in one of the common law courts presided over by the king's justices.