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[Excerpt] Let me summarize the book's most significant accomplishments. Allen has convincingly shown that enclosures were not the major cause of the agricultural evolution. He is not the first historian to reach this conclusion, but no previous historian offered the amount of evidence Allen does to support the argument. His decision to divide the south Midlands into natural districts and examine the effects of enclosure in each district is a major advance over previous studies that examined enclosures at the county or regional level. His detailed analysis of output on open and enclosed farms has shown that enclosures reduced farm revenue in the light arable and pasture districts, and therefore that the main motive for enclosure was not greater output. He has knocked gaping holes in J. D. Chambers's hypothesis that the adoption of "improved agriculture" greatly increased farm employment. He has demolished Arthur Young's argument that large farms used more capital-intensive methods and employed more labor per acre than small farms. He has called into question the long-held belief that enclosures had a significant positive effect on industrialization and economic growth.

In sum, Allen has breathed new life into an old debate. He cleverly has combined contemporary data with sophisticated economics to discredit many of the traditional views about enclosure. The book undoubtedly will lead to several responses by the so-called Agrarian Fundamentalists, and some of Allen's conclusions might be found to be incorrect. But many will stand up. Whatever the outcome, Allen has raised the level of the debate. Enclosure and the Yeoman is a masterpiece of economic history.


Suggested Citation

Boyer, G. R. (1993). England’s two agricultural revolutions [Review of the book Enclosure and the yeoman: The agricultural development of the South Midlands, 1450-1850] [Electronic version]. Journal of Economic History 53(4), 915-923.

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© Cambridge University Press. Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.