The Inclosure Acts (or "Enclosure Acts" in modern spelling) was a series of United Kingdom Acts of Parliament which enclosed open fields and common land in the country, creating legal property rights to land that was previously considered common. Between 1604 and 1914, over 5,200 individual Enclosure Acts were put into place, enclosing 6.8 million acres (2,800,000 ha; 28,000 km2).
Prior to the enclosures in England, a portion of the land was categorized as "common" or "waste". "Common" land was under some kind of collective control. Called the open field system, a single plot of land was divided among groups, often a lord and employed or participating peasants. This facilitated common grazing and crop rotation. "Waste" was the only land not officially claimed by any group, often cultivated by landless peasants.
Enclosure Acts for small areas had been passed sporadically since the 12th century, but with the rise of the Industrial Revolution, they became more commonplace. In search of better financial returns, landowners looked for more efficient farming techniques. Enclosures were also created so that landowners could charge higher rent to the people working the land. This was at least partially responsible for peasants leaving the countryside to work in the city in industrial factories.
In 1801, the Inclosure (Consolidation) Act was passed to tidy up previous acts. In 1845, another General Inclosure Act allowed for the appointment of Inclosure Commissioners who could enclose land without submitting a request to Parliament.
List of Acts
- The Inclosure Act 1773 (13 Geo.3 c.81)
- The Inclosure Act 1845 (8 & 9 Vict. c.118)
- The Inclosure Act 1846 (9 & 10 Vict. c.70)
- The Inclosure Act 1847 (10 & 11 Vict. c.111)
- The Inclosure Act 1848 (11 & 12 Vict. c.99)
- The Inclosure Act 1849 (12 & 13 Vict. c.83)
- The Inclosure Commissioners Act 1851 (14 & 15 Vict. c.53)
- The Inclosure Act 1852 (15 & 16 Vict. c.79)
- The Inclosure Act 1854 (17 & 18 Vict. c. 97)
- The Inclosure Act 1857 (20 & 21 Vict. c.31)
- The Inclosure Act 1859 (22 & 23 Vict. c.43)
- The Inclosure, etc. Expenses Act 1868 (31 & 32 Vict. c.89)
- The Commons Act 1876 (39 & 40 Vict. c.56)
- The Commons (Expenses) Act 1878 (41 & 42 Vict. c.56)
- The Commons Act 1879 (42 & 43 Vict. c.37)
- The Commonable Rights Compensation Act 1882 (45 & 46 Vict. c.15)
- "Inclosure" is an old or formal spelling of the word now more usually spelled "enclosure": both spellings are pronounced //.
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