Wednesday, February 24, 2016

UK Enclosure/Inclosure Acts and Land Reform in Sri Lanka.

A fantastic article on the Enclosure/Inclosure Acts in England which resulted 0.06 percent (40,000) owing half the land in the UK.  Below are excerpts from the article and some comments comparisons with the Paddy Lands Act of 1958 and Land Reform Act of 1972.  On reading the excerpts, please think about
a) Sri Lanka's decision to pursue a Agricultural Economy vs a Industrial Economy. It consequences on Rural vs Urban population.
b) Large Scale Farming vs small holder Farms and Productivity.  Does increasing productivity help the general population.

Anyway for the Excerpts
For over 500 years, pamphleteers, politicians and historians have argued about enclosure, those in favour (including the beneficiaries) insisting that it was necessary for economic development or "improvement", and those against (including the dispossessed) claiming that it deprived the poor of their livelihoods and led to rural depopulation.
Private ownership of land, and in particular absolute private ownership, is a modern idea, only a few hundred years old. "The idea that one man could possess all rights to one stretch of land to the exclusion of everybody else" was outside the comprehension of most tribespeople, or indeed of medieval peasants. The king, or the Lord of the Manor, might have owned an estate in one sense of the word, but the peasant enjoyed all sorts of so-called "usufructory" rights which enabled him, or her, to graze stock, cut wood or peat, draw water or grow crops, on various plots of land at specified times of year.
In much the same way the Kings of Sri Lanka may have owned the land, but the population was allowed to have a livelihood from the land.
The open field system of farming, which dominated the flatter more arable central counties of England throughout the later medieval and into the modern period, is a classic common property system which can be seen in many parts of the world. The structure of the open fields system in Britain was influenced by the introduction of the caruca a large wheeled plough, developed by the Gauls, which was much more capable of dealing with heavy English clay soils than the lightweight Roman aratrum (Fr araire ). The caruca required a larger team of oxen to pull it —as many as eight on heavy soils — and was awkward to turn around, so very long strips were ideal. Most peasants could not afford a whole team of oxen, just one or two, so maintaining an ox team had to be a joint enterprise.
Paddy Farming in Sri Lanka is open field.  The large stretches on sees are in reality many small holdings. The owners cooperate (they have to) in irrigation, pest management and harvesting increasingly by mechanized combine harvesters (Bhuthaya and Tsunami).
The rights of commoners to take firewood, timber and game from woodlands, and to graze pigs in them, had been progressively eroded for centuries: free use of forests and abolition of game laws was one of the demands that Richard II agreed to with his fingers crossed when he confronted Wat Tyler during the 1381 Peasants Revolt.25 But in the early 18th century the process accelerated as wealthy landowners enclosed forests for parks and hunting lodges, dammed rivers for fishponds, and allowed their deer to trash local farmer's crops.
In the early 1600s, the Stuart kings James I and Charles I, hard up for cash, embarked on a policy of draining the fenland commons to provide valuable arable land that would yield the crown a higher revenue. Dutch engineers, notably Cornelius Vermuyden, were employed to undertake comprehensive drainage schemes which cost the crown not a penny, because the developers were paid by being allocated a third of the land enclosed and drained.
Aha, sounds like the Port City Projects. Well at least not trying to claim the land belonging to the population.
Between 1760 and 1840 most of the fens were drained and enclosed by act of parliament. The project was not an instant success. As the land dried out it shrunk and lowered against the water table, and so became more vulnerable to flooding. Pumping stations had to be introduced, powered initially and unsuccessfully by windmills, then by steam engines, and now the entire area is kept dry thanks to diesel. Since drainage eventually created one of the most productive areas of arable farmland in Britain, it would be hard to argue that it was not an economic improvement; but the social and environmental consequences have been less happy. Much of the newly cultivated land lay at some distance from the villages and was taken over by large landowners; it was not unusual to find a 300 acre holding without a single labourers' cottage on it.
And thirdly, Scotland had been united with England and its extensive pastures lay ready to be "devowered by shepe". The fact that these lands were populated by Highland clansmen presented no obstacle. In a process that has become known as the Clearances, thousands of Highlanders were evicted from their holdings and shipped off to Canada, or carted off to Glasgow to make way for Cheviot sheep. Others were concentrated on the West coast to work picking kelp seaweed, then necessary for the soap and glass industry, and were later to form the nucleus of the crofting community. Some cottagers were literally burnt out of house and home by the agents of the Lairds.
The final and most contentious wave of land enclosures in England occurred between about 1750 and 1850. Whereas the purpose of most previous enclosures had been to turn productive arable land into less productive (though more privately lucrative) sheep pasture, the colonization of Scotland for wool, and India and the Southern US states for cotton now prompted the advocates of enclosure to play a different set of cards: their aim was to turn open fields, pastures and wastelands — everything in fact — into more productive arable and mixed farm land. Their byword was "improvement". Their express aim was to increase efficiency and production and so both create and feed an increasingly large proletariat who would work either as wage labourers in the improved fields, or or as machine< minders in the factories.
The main arguments of those in favour of enclosure were:
(i) that the open field system prevented "improvement", for example the introduction of clover, turnips and four course rotations, because individuals could not innovate;
(ii) that the waste lands and common pastures were "bare-worn" or full of scrub, and overstocked with half-starved beasts;
(iii) that those who survived on the commons were (a) lazy and (b) impoverished (in other words "not inclined to work for wages"), and that enclosure of the commons would force them into employment.
The main arguments of those against enclosure were:
(i) that the common pastures and waste lands were the mainstay of the independent poor; when they were overgrazed, that was often as a result of overstocking by the wealthiest commoners who were the people agitating for enclosure
(ii) that enclosure would engross already wealthy landowners, force poor people off the land and into urban slums, and result in depopulation.
Agreed re "not inclined to work for wages" .  When you a small amount of land why do back breaking work for pennies.  Ceylon had and has this problem in quite a big scale. The Brits had to get landless South Indians to work the tea and rubber plantations.  Maybe ECTA can get Indians over here to work for pennies.
Between 1760 and 1870, about 7 million acres (about one sixth the area of England) were changed, by some 4,000 acts of parliament, from common land to enclosed land.37 However necessary this process might or might not have been for the improvement of the agricultural economy, it was downright theft. Millions of people had customary and legal access to lands and the basis of an independent livelihood was snatched away from them through what to them must have resembled a Kafkaesque tribunal carried out by members of the Hellfire Club. If you think this must be a colourful exaggeration, then read J L and Barbara Hammonds' accounts of Viscount "Bully" Bolingbroke's attempt to enclose Kings' Sedgmoor to pay off his gambling debts:
"Suppose for argument's sake, 20 five-acre farms, cultivated by spade husbandry, together were more productive than a single 100- acre farm using machinery. This did not mean that the landowners would get more rent from them — far from it. As each 5 acre farm might support a farmer and his family, the surplus available for tenants to pay in rent would be small. The single tenant farmer, hiring labourers when he needed them, might have a lower yield, from his hundred acres, but he would have a larger net profit — and it was from net profit that rent was derived. That was why landlords preferred consolidation.
Ironically, it was the same breed of political economists who had previously advocated improvement that was now arguing for grain imports which would make these improvements utterly pointless. The repeal had a delayed effect because it was not until after the construction of the trans-continental American railways, in the 1870s, that cereals grown on low-rent land confiscated from native Americans could successfully undermine UK farming. By the 1880s the grain was also being imported in the form of thousands of tonnes of refrigerated beef which undercut home produced meat. There were even, until the late 1990s, cheaper transport rates within the UK for imported food than for home-grown food.
Aha, productivity and specialization.  FECTA  again can provides use cheap food and goods at the expense of local farmer and producer.
But these disputes, like many others thrown up by the fact that every commons was different, miss the bigger picture. The fact is that England and Wales' rural population dived from 65 per cent of the population in 1801 to 23 per cent in 1901; while in France 59 per cent of the population remained rural in 1901, and even in 1982, 31 per cent were country dwellers. Between 1851 and 1901 England and Wales' rural population declined by 1.4 million, while total population rose by 14.5 million and the urban population nearly tripled.57 By 1935, there was one worker for every 12 hectares in the UK, compared to one worker for every 4.5 hectares in France, and one for every 3.4 hectares across the whole of Europe.
Britain set out, more or less deliberately, to become a highly urbanized economy with a large urban proletariat dispossessed from the countryside, highly concentrated landownership, and farms far larger than any other country in Europe. Enclosure of the commons, more advanced in the UK than anywhere else in Europe, was not the only means of achieving this goal: free trade and the importing of food and fibre from the New World and the colonies played a part, and so did the English preference for primogeniture (bequeathing all your land to your eldest son). But enclosure of common land played a key role in Britain's industrialization, and was consciously seen to do so by its protagonists at the time.