The Enclosure Movement and the Agricultural and Industrial Revolutions
Few technological changes have been criticized as much as the enclosure movement, strongly associated with the British Isles, but actually rooted in the Netherlands. Consider this definition of the movement offered by the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF):
The Enclosure Movement or inclosure is the process which was used to end traditional rights, and has historically been accompanied by force, resistance, and bloodshed. It has been referred to as “among the most controversial areas of agricultural and economic history in England.”
The enclosure movement was a push in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries to take land that had formerly been owned in common by all members of a village, or at least available to the public for grazing animals and growing food, and turn it into privately owned land, usually with walls, fences, or hedges around it.
The CELFD website acknowledges that “some small number of enclosures had been going on since the 12th century, especially in the north and west of England, but it became much more common in the 1700s.” For critics, enclosure, the idea of heartlessly depriving the sturdy English yeoman of his rightful land, was a necessary precondition of establishing a capitalistic society during the Industrial Revolution.
Some economists, including Ludwig von Mises in Human Action, have expressed doubt about the prevailing view:
In the first decades of the Industrial Revolution, the standard of living of the factory workers was shockingly bad when compared with the contemporary conditions of the upper classes and with the present conditions of the industrial masses. Hours of work were long, the sanitary conditions in
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