Explain briefly what the open field system meant to rural people
in eighteenth-century England. Look at the system from the point
of view of:
A rich farmer
A peasant woman
(a) A rich farmer:
As the prices of wool increased, rich farmers wanted to increase
its production. Therefore, they began to privatise the
best parts of the common land and open fields for themselves.
This was done to ensure that their sheep would get good fodder.
They also began to drive out poorer farmers, disallowing them
from using common land for grazing.
(b) A labourer:
For the poor labourers, the common lands were essential
for survival. They used to live with landowners, doing a
number of odd jobs for them in return for board and lodging and a
small pay. However, when the open field system began to
disappear, labourers were paid wages and employed only at harvest
time. This left them at the mercy of rich landowners and
(c) A peasant woman:
For peasant women, the open field system was a good way of
community living wherein everything was shared between the rich
and the poor. They would use the common lands for grazing
their cattle, gathering fruits and collecting firewood.
However, all these activities were negatively affected because of
the disappearance of open fields.
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