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The land-family bond in England.

Books which provoke storms often fail to prompt research. In his iconoclastic book The Origins of English Individualism (1978), Alan Macfarlane described how in England land was vested in the individual and how he (or less often she) had an absolute right of sale, uncomplicated by any obligation to children or kin. By comparison with an archetype derived from studies of the Polish and Russian peasantries, in which the sale of land was infrequent if not unknown, the sentimental connection between kin and land in England was weak.(1) The English, unlike the Irish of the century after the Famine, did not care for "the rewards of immortality derived from having one's name and progeny established on the land".(2) It is not hard to see ways in which this characteristic pattern of behaviour may have had implications for the workings of rural communities. Land, and thus status, might be bought rather than inherited. The labour of children might not be relied upon if they could purchase or lease a holding without being obliged to wait for the devolution of the parental messuage. Conversely, children could never be certain of their inheritance when a single parent controlled the timing and direction of the devolution of property.

English Individualism was not simply a description of the legal framework within which individuals held their land. Macfarlane found that the right of sale was freely used. Having demonstrated a rapid turnover in the possession of tenements in Earls Colne, Essex, Macfarlane disproved his own speculation that "if we are to find a pre-industrial peasantry anywhere in the country it seems likely to be in the higher, supposedly more remote and backward, upland region" through an examination of the Westmorland parish of Kirkby Lonsdale, where he found that landholding exhibited a similar instability.(3) Moreover, the weak attachment to land was not the result of a transition from feudalism to capitalism in the later Middle Ages. On the contrary, it seemed that a form of rural anomy had prevailed in all periods since the Conquest.

English Individualism served as a corrective to the easy assumptions of earlier writers, but its thesis contains a number of persistent difficulties. There is, for instance, its static approach to demography. While this, to a small degree, may be justified in the light of the case it sets out to make, Macfarlane's failure to recognize that the activity of the land market was conditioned by demographic circumstances must be regretted. It is significant that evidence drawn from the period of the late medieval population collapse plays a prominent part in demonstrating the weakness of the land-family bond.(4)

Another problem is the lack of reference to circumstances outside England, even within the British Isles. The uniqueness of the English within Europe is stated rather than argued (unless we assume that Macfarlane believed that the nineteenth-century eastern European peasantry was in some way representative of the whole European experience). This failure to ask whether the experience described by Macfarlane was genuinely only an English experience allows him to make the association between the individualistic behaviour of the English and another feature unique to England, the English common law. But the association of the two was never proved, either by showing that characteristics of English society were lacking in continental Europe (even though Macfarlane postulated a Germanic origin for those characteristics) or in the British Celtic fringe, or that it was the common law, rather than some other factor, that determined the character of relations within the family. In contrast, the assumption which informs this paper is that the individual possession of property was less the consequence of a particular legal system than a feature of a commercialized, monetarized economy in which rural production was largely for consumption within an urban market. It is, for instance, the degree of exposure to the market and the character of the rent levied on the tenant which determines the survival of the kinship-based systems of landholding in Highland Scotland. The adoption in the eighteenth century of cash rents in place of food rents, which forced the tenants to seek a market for their produce, was a crucial moment in the dissolution of the clan as a system of landholding.(5)

Yet despite the controversy provoked by English Individualism, no major body of writing based on new research has appeared to either challenge or confirm Macfarlane's hypotheses. One recent exception (which offered the stimulus for this present paper) was an article in Past and Present by Govind Sreenivasan which drew on Macfarlane's own materials from Earls Colne to show that landholding there exhibited much more stability than Macfarlane allowed. Unfortunately, Sreenivasan's own conclusions are open to challenge on a number of grounds.(6)

The present paper is offered as a contribution to the debate over the individualistic character of English society. The first part asks whether the right of alienation described by Macfarlane was actually as free as he held and whether it really is incompatible with a close relationship between family and land. The second section covers ground made familiar by Sreenivasan, whose methods and conclusions are critically assessed. In the third and final section, an attempt is made to reformulate the enquiry into the land-family bond. We shall raise questions about how we might most usefully measure the frequency of sale. We shall offer some tentative suggestions as to why the sale of tenements might have been necessary and query whether the freedom of sale in a commercialized society indicates anything of significance about the character of intra-familial relations. In doing this, our intention is to rescue from social history two issues which ought to be central to agricultural and economic history: the survival of the unit of agrarian production and the workings of the land market. The historiographical consequence of Macfarlane's intervention is that the perpetuation of the family farm has become dislocated from the cognate study of engrossment, the polarization of rural societies and agricultural profitability; in short, it has been wrenched from its economic context.


Macfarlane's contention that the common law gave to every owner of freehold land the right to dispose of it as he wished during his life, or to disinherit his heirs at his death, is surely correct. But the landowner also had the means, through settlements and entails, to deny these same rights to the next generation. (There was inevitably an area of the law devoted to breaking such restraints to restore to the individual his right of sale.) Indeed, it might plausibly be argued that disinheritance was most frequently used to maintain the integrity of lands when the next generation seemed careless of their preservation. Perversely, the judicious use of disinheritance could reinforce the land-family bond by excluding those who seemed likely to disrupt it.(7)

Within medieval towns there are indications that the right of free sale was acknowledged, but tempered by customs which either insisted on the right of the heir to purchase the lands before a stranger or conceded to the heir the right to reclaim them after their sale within a specified time-span.(8) Hence, at Bury St Edmunds in the early twelfth century a burgess could "sell this land in the vill of St Edmund whether it be of his inheritance or of his purchase, if need compels him, unless he has a son or next kinsman who wishes to and can give him as much for it as another would give . . .".(9) The late twelfth-century custumal from Northampton gave this a slightly more developed expression:

When a man has land by inheritance, and by reason of his poverty wishes to give it in fee, the heir or next of kin has more right to buy it than a stranger . . . but in such a way that the claimant must come within the three pleas first held after the feoffment, and must offer the seller as much as the buyer has proposed to give him.(10)

Such rules are found both before and after the Black Death, as in the fifteenth-century custumal from Dover:

And if eny man or woman be in will to sell his herytage within the fraunchyse, the next of hys kyn shall have it afore all other: and though the sale be made to any straunger, yf eny man that be of kyn come in to the courte anone as he hath knowlege of the sale and cleyme the bargayne, he shall have it by awarde of the mayre and juratts and lesse pryce be every pownde xijd, of the which overplus the seller shall answer to the straunger.(11)

The last element, that kin should receive some advantage in price, is unusual although not unparalleled (see, for instance, the Fordwich customs also printed by Bateson(12)) and might perhaps be seen as a penalty to be incurred if the correct procedures were not followed.

These customs appear to envisage sale out of necessity. In the Leges Henrici Primi, we read that if a landowner "in mortal need or in his illness or poverty" is not succoured by his son or relative (in the sense of next of kin) but is aided by another relative or stranger, then he could adopt his helper as his "son".(13) The Tewkesbury custumal (dating from before 1183) held that:

if it chanced that any of the burgesses grew poor, whereby it might be necessary for him to sell his burgage, he had first to ask his heir apparent three times before his neighbours [to give him] what was needful to him in food and clothing, according to the requirements of his rank; and if the heir would not do so, it would be lawful to him to sell his burgage as he chose, for ever, without any challenge.(14)

Bateson gathered sufficient instances of such laws to persuade us that they remained of importance in later medieval society, for similar regulations are found in the fifteenth-century borough custumals from Dover and Northampton.(15) The right of free alienation was a harsh rule; it was desirable that it be circumscribed by giving the heir or kin a first option on the property.

Did similar rules apply in rural communities? Here the problem is partly evidential, for manors and villages were not communities in the manner of towns; they lacked the institutions of self-government within which such rules might be recorded. That peasants demanded the right to sell their tenements without seigneurial interference is well understood. But a few tenant communities can be seen imposing a right of pre-emption broadly similar to that previously noticed in borough customs. It is well documented in Sedbergh and Dent, Yorks. (now Cumbria), in the later sixteenth century. Among the customs of his Dent tenants which Lord Monteagle confirmed in 1565 was one that "if any tenant bargain, sell or otherwise put away his farmhold or tenement, then the next of kin to such tenant to have the said farmhold or tenement paying therefore as [an]other will".(16) In a survey of the crown manor of Dent of 1602, it was said that:

[the] tenants after they have come to age have used to give, grant . . . their several messuages or tenements or any part or parcel thereof to any person or persons whatsoever after they have made the first offer thereof and their price and days [of payment] unto the next of kin or blood who should inherit the same . . .(17)

Most remarkably, an early Elizabethan suit in Chancery allows us to see these regulations in operation. One William Heygarth of Sedbergh, having decided to sell a messuage and four acres in Dent, and acknowledging the custom we have already described, went first to James Heygarth and Matthew Heygarth, both of Dent, "being the next of his blood and kindred and gave notice unto them and either of them of his intent and purpose and offered unto them the first bargain and sale", which they refused, saying that they were "contented that he should seek his best chapman acording to the custom". He then went to one William Heygarth younger "as his next of blood" and offered him the purchase, which he accepted. William younger then found that James and Matthew Heygarth had seized possession of his newly acquired messuage, and he sought the aid of Chancery to recover it. In their submission to the court, James and Matthew claimed that they had never declined the offer of sale. On the contrary, they wanted to purchase, and recognized that they had a better claim to do so than William Heygarth younger who, they alleged, had intervened to prevent them from exercising their rights.(18)

One cannot, however, prove a case with material from the Yorkshire Dales alone. The jurist Sir Edward Coke, speaking in a Common Pleas case in 1612, described the custom of his native village in Norfolk as being:

that if any copyholder will sell his land and agree of his price, that at the next court when a surrender is to be made, the next of blood, and if he will not, any other of his blood, may have the land, and so everyone to be preferred according the nearness of the blood.

Coke clearly thought this to be a good custom, and worthy of recognition and maintenance, but it is noteworthy that he described it as being a custom of a specific place, rather than a precept of universal application.(19)

Similar practices are found at Kingsthorpe, Northants, in a custumal of 1484:

Also yf any persone sell any londes and tenements to any other persone withynne the seid towne or with oute, that the seid seller of the seid londes and tenements shalle yelde [t]hem up into the Kynges honde unto the behove of the byer, after custome and man', and there to abyde ix dayes; and yf any persone kynne to the seid seller withyn the iiiith degree come wythin the seid ix dayes and aske a cate [i.e., purchase], yt shalbe delyvered hym thus to paye the money that the forseid byer shulde paye, havyng suche day of payment as the seid seller and byer hav . . . And yif noo cate of noon suche persone withynne the seid iiiith degree, withynne the seid ix dayes, be asked, that then the seid byer come and have lyvery of season, after custom and man'.

If no kin presented themselves, then men born within the manor or living within its franchise might claim a pre-emptory right over a stranger. The same custom was included in the reissue of the custumal made in 1547, and there is an instance in the court rolls for 1550 of the right of pre-emption being claimed.(20)

These few cases do not prove that there was a general rule which favoured the kin of a vendor over a stranger, but they do indicate that some communities attempted to curb the individual's discretion. Whether these rules were ever anything more than a prescriptive guide to an ideal society is impossible to ascertain. If they were scrupulously observed, we would not know; when we occasionally see them being enforced, we cannot tell whether we are seeing a breach of normal practice or a revival of archaic regulation. Whichever, the right of free alienation is not as clear-cut as Macfarlane might maintain.


At the very core of English Individualism was Macfarlane's demonstration that the land market at both Earls Colne and Kirkby Lonsdale was always active, and hence that relatively little property remained in the hands of the same family for a prolonged period. Using rentals as his baselines, he found that in Earls Colne, only 23 out of 274 pieces of property were in the hands in the same family in 1598 and 1677 (including descents through females) and 31 out of 111 pieces in rentals for Earls Colne manor alone in 1549 and 1589.(21) Similar results were published shortly after by Wrightson and Levine for another Essex village, Terling. Here only two freeholds and a single copyhold remained in the same family ("however broadly one defines it") in 1700 as in 1600, and they were in fact all held by the same family. "For the rest", the authors concluded, "there were very few examples of either a freehold or copyhold holding remaining in the same family for more than two generations, though two generations on the same land was not uncommon".(22) Macfarlane explained this continual turnover in landowners in terms of the lack of any emotional attachment to the family holding; land was merely a commodity, to be bought and sold according to the needs of the family and its members. More recently, Sreenivasan has challenged this view of Earls Colne. His work is a great deal more thorough than Macfarlane's rather preliminary statement in English Individualism. Sreenivasan has reconstructed the tenurial history of every tenement and parcel from the court rolls. He finds that 40 per cent of the parcels were held by the same family for eighty years or more and a quarter for a hundred years or more.(23) At first sight this seems impressive enough; yet we have no idea what a figure for turnover in a typical parish over such a period might be. The following discussion combines criticism of Sreenivasan with a commentary on the problems of this form of analysis.(24)

The first point to be made is that Macfarlane and Sreenivasan talk of different chronological periods, the former 1598-1677, the latter 1550-1650. As their studies are not strictly comparable, it is hard to argue that Sreenivasan has disproved Macfarlane, merely that different results have been found within a different time-frame. This is not merely a pedantic point: the definition of the period under scrutiny may turn out to be crucial.

A second reservation about the Sreenivasan's article concerns the absence of any definition of "family". The conventional tripartite division employed by students of inheritance customs distinguishes between post mortem descents (inheritances within the family) and those made inter vivos; the latter are further divided into transactions made within the family (which anticipate post mortem transfers) and those made between unrelated adults (which are taken to be sales). A fourth category, of escheats or surrenders to the lord, may be ignored here. Overall, the elementary distinction is drawn between inheritance within the family and sale outside the family.

Unfortunately, court rolls rarely describe the relationship of the grantor and grantee. Therefore, this has to be inferred by (say) the use of surnames, but the danger remains (as Razi has shown) that the historian's perception of the proportion of conveyances within the family depends on his ability to identify conveyances between relatives who did not share the same surname.(25) Identification of relatives is made much easier in the early modern period through the survival of parish registers and wills. Even assuming constant demographic circumstances, we would, for this reason alone, expect to find that the frequency with which land passed between traced relatives is higher in the sixteenth century than before.

Sreenivasan has the advantage of relatively full parish registers. He is therefore able to trace convoluted genealogical relationships which might elude a medievalist. Among the conveyances which Sreenivasan describes as familial is one from John Pearson to his wife's cousin, John Ennew. Can a conveyance to a member of a wife's family ever be considered to be familial? In their classic analysis of inheritance practices in County Clare, Arensberg and Kimball specifically warn that the great emphasis on patriliny militated against childless couples turning to the wife's kin for an heir, because to do so could never "keep the name on the house".(26) In early modern England, we find a preference for the use of members of an orphan's mother's family as guardians precisely because paternal land could not descend to them by common law rules except in the most extreme circumstances.(27) Contemporaries also recognized that a descent to an heir was qualitatively different to a sale to an individual who could never inherit. In a tenurial dispute of 1564 from the manor of Chipping Wycombe, Bucks., the arbitrators distinguished between the descent of copyhold "lineally", for which the incoming tenant was to pay a modest fine, and sales "to any stranger to whom the same cannot nor ought to descend", from which stranger the lord was to take an arbitrary fine.(28) The sale to Ennew clearly falls into the second category. Moreover, this particular conveyance served to disinherit Pearson's daughters, of whom he had four living at the time and two more to be born.(29)

Hence the definition of the family employed by Sreenivasan is too broad to be meaningful. We require a tighter definition of the intra-familial transfer which excludes conveyances between persons who, while related, were so in a tenuous and complex fashion. Such a definition should be dual in character: familial transfers are those, first, within the nuclear family (which would, for instance, encompass conveyances from father to younger and, in the eyes of the law, non-inheriting children), and secondly, conveyances to a person outside the nuclear family who, in the absence of near kin, had a reasonable expectation of being the vendor's heir by the common law rules of descent. The number of sales which Sreenivasan includes in his catchall definition of "familial" and which would be excluded from this tighter definition is probably not large,(30) but only a small number of transfers may greatly increase the number of tenements held for long periods within the same "family".(31) His figures therefore overstate the degree of continuity.

The third question is whether all parcels deserve to be treated equally. Macfarlane tells us that two-thirds of Earls Colne at the end of the sixteenth century was manorial demesne; the remainder was copyhold in the hands of about twenty individuals.(32) Three-quarters of the people in the parish held nothing more than a house and garden. Macfarlane describes a small town with a service sector, considerable employment in textiles, engaged in the production of hops and fruit.(33) Sreenivasan gives houses and small parcels equal weight with large, capitalist, labour-employing farms. A number of his examples concern very small units, for instance the tenement called Firmintiles, actually two houses, one with an orchard of five-eighths of an acre, the other with one-eighth of an acre. Properties of this size cannot have been the occupier's means of subsistence; they are simply too small.(34) Should we include such small properties or not? Sreenivasan is aware of this problem and observes that larger properties were held for much longer periods. On the other hand, 26 per cent of his properties were retained by the same family for a hundred years or more. Together they amounted to 37 per cent of the area of Earls Colne; but the average area of each "unit" in this category is only 7.8 acres.(35) One must assume that the figures are distorted by a large number of small parcels and cottages. This is not to say that the descent of cottages and small tenements is uninteresting or unworthy of study, rather that it is potentially very different to that of farms, and that to treat the two as one is to produce an unrewarding mean. We therefore need to decide what we are trying to count before embarking on what are inevitably long and tedious calculations.

A fourth point concerns the question of how we best measure the continuity of possession. The easiest calculation (and that employed by Macfarlane) is to take two fixed points, in practice rentals, and to trace the possession of each tenement or parcel from the first to the last. The outcome of this investigation might be determined by the choice of dates and so is potentially unreliable.(36) The method used by Sreenivasan, of taking a survey and then seeing how long both before and after that date each tenement remained in the same family, is obviously more sophisticated. I employed a similar technique in a study of the land market in the manor of Slaidburn, Yorks.(37) One important difference between our studies is that Sreenivasan does not offer figures for either the frequency with which tenements were sold or the number of tenements which never or rarely entered the land market. The significance of this may be seen in my work on Slaidburn, where I found clear evidence of an active land market in copyhold land, but also that the long-term possession of tenements was normal.

Taking a survey of 1592 as a base, individual tenements were traced back to the earliest extant court roll (of 1520). The tenements fell into two groups: those which had always been held of the manor by individual copyhold tenants, and a group which prior to 1552 had been held by feoffees to the use of chantry and other foundations. 34 tenements could be satisfactorily traced from 1520 to 1592 and 15 ex-chantry tenements from 1552 to 1592. The 34 tenements were "sold" (that is, surrendered between apparently unrelated individuals by transfer inter vivos) 45 times in 72 years; in other words, one tenement was sold every 1.6 years and each tenement was sold 1.3 times. Excluding the initial sale by the crown, the 15 ex-chantry tenements were sold 18 times, that is 1.2 times each, or once every 36.5 years. This figure proved to be unduly influenced by a small number of properties which were sold repeatedly, including one sold 7 times between 1552 and 1585. Excluding this tenement, we find that the others were sold less than once each, or once every 55.9 years (the tenements being in observation for 44 years). One may therefore claim that sales were rare; but the figure which one really needs is how many tenements were sold at all. In fact, 28 of the 49 tenements never appeared on the market, and the remaining 21 were sold a total of 53 times, or more than twice each. Slaidburn had two quite different tenurial histories: one of tenements which were retained within the family throughout, and another of those which were sold relatively often.

Fifthly, frequent sales do not imply frequent changes in the occupation of the land. The little available evidence indicates that a proportion of those named in manorial rent-rolls were not farming the land they tenanted.(38) We have no specific evidence on this point for Earls Colne and Colne Priory manors, but it would be a reasonable surmise that at least some copyholders were letting their land to subtenants.(39) The dilemma that absenteeism poses can be seen at Slaidburn. At the time of the 1592 survey, Edward Parker of Foulscales in Newton in Bowland held 7 copyhold messuages and 51 acres of land in Slaidburn township, and a copyhold tenement and 47 acres in Grindleton township. All this was in his possession by 1560, and much of it seems to have come from his father and grandfather. Every acre was in the hands of subtenants. Another absentee in 1592 was William Bradley of Scarcliffe, Derbyshire, who held a messuage and 16 acres which had been in his family's hands since at least 1541. How are we to treat people like these?(40) There is obviously a long-term continuity of possession, but where we have been encouraged to see this as indicating an attachment to land, such instances indicate nothing of the sort. Indeed, one may envisage two tenements, one held for long periods by an absentee proprietor, the other bought and sold frequently by individuals who regarded it only as a capital asset. We would regard the attachment of family to land as very different, but both tenements might be held by long-standing subtenants who rarely, if ever, appeared in the documentary record. Where then does the sentimental attachment to land lie?

Finally, Sreenivasan's claim to have discovered a right of kin to land which could not be extinguished by sale, a right which "cannot be reconciled with Macfarlane's thesis of an individualistic conception of property", has to be dismissed.(41) It is an odd claim, for even if Sreenivasan's interpretation is taken at face value, we see the "hereditary right" being sold to the sitting copyhold tenant on one occasion.(42) In fact, the claim rests on only three cases, one where the sister of a copyhold tenant successfully recovered her brother's tenement twenty-nine years after he had sold it, a second case where a copyholder paid a consideration to the nephew of a former owner, again some years after a sale, and a third where the son of a deceased elder son challenged a will made by his grandfather which favoured his uncles and aunt.(43) "[They] all rest on the view that (i) a kinship affiliation created a right to property held by one's relatives, and (ii) that these rights were not necessarily extinguished by time or by a legal alienation of the property outside the family."(44) Each has some odd features which might be clarified by the discovery of additional evidence, but postulating some form of overriding hereditary right to explain these cases is like claiming that one's missing biros have been misplaced through the intervention of poltergeists. Simpler explanations should be sought in each case.

The first concerns a small tenement called The Tavern.(45) This was acquired by one John Game in 1521 as a deathbed surrender from one Agnes Champion.(46) Game died in 1554 leaving The Tavern to his eldest son, James, and an additional eighteen acres called Bettingsland to his widow for her life. In 1559 James Game died and his brother, Nicholas, was admitted. In 1568 he was admitted to Bettingsland on the death of his mother.(47) In 1561 Nicholas surrendered The Tavern to one Thomas Allen. Nicholas died in 1590, still in possession of the eighteen acres, which passed to his wife, with a reversion to his children. At about the same time his widowed sister, one Joan Spurgion, appeared in the court and had a surrender of the reversion of The Tavern from Thomas Allen.(48)

The first error in Sreenivasan's account of the descent of this tenement is the introduction into the account of freebench. Sreenivasan appears to believe that a description of a woman in the court rolls as being "in her pure widowhood" indicates that freebench rights are being claimed. This is a misunderstanding; the description in fact indicates that a woman, because she was a widow, had her own legal personality and could therefore appear in the court in her own person and hold land in her own right. In the court roll Spurgion was described as "sister and next heir of James Game [d. 1559], [who was] the son and heir of John Game [her father, d. 1554]". (She was not described as heir to her brother Nicholas, for he had a widow and children still living.) Her claim, it must be deduced, was that her brother Nicholas never had a good title to the premises and that his admittance to and sale of the premises in 1561 were invalid. But Spurgion did not recover possession of the premises: she quitclaimed her residual rights to Allen and then had a grant of an annuity from the messuage and the surrender of the Allens' interest in reversion. There is no trial of the title in the manorial court; but the record, in the way in which it denies an absolute right to either party, looks like an arbitration. The case is certainly obscure, but proves nothing.

The second case concerns a small tenement called Filbriggs. Here one Richard Evans, who died in 1598 or 1599, surrendered his property to his wife Anne for life, with remainder to his brother John. By 1619 the reversionary right had passed to one Henry Drury, we know not how, and in that year he sold the reversion to the lord of the manor, Richard Harlakenden. At about the same time, the lord also acquired Evans's widow's life interest.(49) Now in law, the purchase of a copyhold by the lord of the manor extinguished the copyhold, which could not be re-created by the lord's own action.(50) Hence, when in 1627 the lord granted the same premises by copy to the vicar of Earls Colne, John Hawksby, he was giving Hawksby a title with no legal force (but a perfectly acceptable one so long as it passed unchallenged). Ten years later one William Evans appeared in the manorial court and successfully proved his hereditary right to the tenement. For a consideration of [pounds]8 (perhaps two years' value of this small tenement), Evans quitclaimed his interest in the tenement to Hawksby.(51) It seems an unavoidable conclusion that Evans was the possessor of the reversionary right established by Richard Evans in 1598 or 1599, and that the court must have found that Henry Drury, whoever he was, had never been seised of the reversion established by this surrender. There is no need to postulate some hereditary right; what we see is the acquisition of an invalid title.

The third case is even more straightforward. A man called Thomas Leffingwell was admitted to a tenement in 1552 "for himself and the male heirs of his body legitimately procreated". He died in 1606 leaving several sons, the eldest of whom, Nicholas, was apparently dead, but had a legitimate heir of his own, Robert. By his will Thomas Leffingwell disinherited his grandson in favour of his younger children. At the court following Thomas Leffingwell's death, counsel appeared for the grandson and argued that the entail established in 1552 should stand over a deathbed surrender made to the use of Thomas Leffingwell's will. The court, after deliberation and a search of the court rolls, ruled that the surrender of lands by a tenant in fee tail to the use of his will was contrary to custom (that is, that the entail removed the tenant's testamentary discretion), and awarded the tenement to Robert, the grandson, over the claims of his two uncles and an aunt.(52) There is nothing odd about this: Thomas Leffingwell was bound by a perfectly ordinary entail, which he himself had accepted in his admittance of 1552.(53) What is curious, though it is not remarked upon by Sreenivasan, is that at the time of his death Leffingwell had no title in the premises. The tenement had been forfeited to the lord in 1604 for the felling of timber on the copyhold. It had then been granted to Thomas Harlakenden who, after Thomas Leffingwell's death, appeared in court and surrendered the tenement to Robert Leffingwell. It was this admittance which brought Thomas Leffingwell's surviving children into court to claim the premises, although the court ruled on the validity of the surrender to the use of the will rather than the fact of the forfeiture.(54)

All three cases are explicable in terms other than those deduced by Sreenivasan; none of them require us to postulate some entitlement of kin to the land of relatives which survived the sale of that land to strangers.

It seems only fair to conclude that although Sreenivasan has cast reasonable doubt on the pessimistic conclusions of Macfarlane's simple analysis of the Earls Colne land market, his own figures cannot be accepted at face value, for they overstate the continuity of possession in the century before 1650. While it would be surprising if his more optimistic position was not partly vindicated for the narrow period of which he writes, his larger claim, that kin could reclaim land sold by one of their number, must be disregarded.


So far we have illustrated both the methodological difficulties of obtaining useful figures for discussion and the problems which prevent their easy interpretation. There is a further definitional matter to be considered before any understanding can be achieved. What do we mean by a sale, and why do we invest the sale of land, as opposed to the devolution of land, with such importance? In part, our interest in this matter arises from an expectation that farming families in past rural societies should have continued on their farms generation after generation. Historic rural society is presumed to be the antithesis of modern urban society, but on inspection, we find that the eastern European peasantries of the nineteenth century conform more closely to the expected paradigm than does early modern English rural society. Implicit in this ideal view is the belief that conveyances within the family are normal, and sales to strangers abnormal. Indeed, perhaps we believe that conveyances within the family may be distinguished from those between strangers because the former are gifts, and thus demonetarized, and the latter are commercial transactions. The painful truth is that the historical record does not allow us to distinguish between conveyances by gift and sales which were "commercial", but it does allow us, in a rough-and-ready fashion, to distinguish between transfers between family members and those between a family member and an outsider. The two types of transfer may not be equated.

One could argue that all conveyances between father and heir are, in fact, monetarized. Inheriting sons are frequently, perhaps normally, charged with paying legacies out of the tenement to non-inheriting children. The inheriting sibling is, in effect, purchasing the tenement from his father by undertaking the father's responsibilities to his non-inheriting children. A dowry paid by the father of the bride of the inheriting son to the groom's father may have the same final purpose of discharging the obligation to non-inheriting children: it too is, in a sense, a purchase of the tenement. In both late medieval England and post-Famine Ireland, an inheriting son might have to "purchase" his parents' tenement by supporting them in retirement or acting as their labourer.(55)

An inheriting son may have obtained the parental property cheaply, but he did not get it free. In this respect his position is more akin to that of a stranger purchasing the holding than we might allow. The advantage of inheriting was not that it was a free entry into a farm, but that the incoming tenant probably secured his predecessor's assets and that the "purchase money" due to the other heirs might be paid out over a number of years or employed as working capital until the legatees became entitled to draw on it. However, such costs could only be tied to the descent of a holding at times when the land market was competitive - and thus expensive to enter - and when inheriting children were acquiescent. There were contrary moments, as in the mid-fifteenth century, when land was so cheap or easy to acquire that the cost of inherited land, if only in terms of the heir's deferred entrance, was so far in advance of the cost of non-familial land that systems of devolution within the family temporarily collapsed.(56)

If we finally discover that the land-family bond in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries was indeed weak, then we have a superficially similar phenomenon existing in quite different economic circumstances to those of the fifteenth century. Population was high where it had been low; land was being increasingly intensively farmed where before it had been abandoned. Property was not merely a livelihood: it also conferred status, and sale surely resulted in the loss of both. Where land was hard or expensive to acquire, we can assume that the reluctance to sell was all the greater.

Why might landowners sell their holdings? In Arensberg and Kimball's account of rural society in County Clare in the late 1920s, we find a great emphasis on the determination to "keep the name" on the land. But we also receive hints that sales to strangers were not unknown. There were opportunities, for instance, for returning migrants to buy farms, but the only explanation we are offered for farmers selling concerns childless men who, instead of seeking out an heir by adoption among their kin or friends, turned "crabbit", sold their farm and went to town to "drink the money".(57)

Both childlessness, and having too many children, could bring down the curtain on a family farm; childlessness because retirement implied the sale of the farm to release capital, and too many children because the provision of education, dowries and inheritances for the next generation could drain reserves and force the release of capital through sale. The correct balance was probably impossible to achieve except by accident. Small variations in microdemography could therefore have considerable economic consequences.(58) But if farmers could barely hope to determine their completed family size, they had no chance of controlling the level of agricultural prices. It has never been shown that short periods of high food prices can be correlated with a quickening of the land market in early modern England. What undermined the early modern English peasantry may yet turn out to be periods of low prices.(59)

Of course, at some periods the acute farmer could diversify into new cash crops (a strategy made familiar by Joan Thirsk's work), but we know little about those farmers who were squeezed out of farming by miscalculation or the hostility of the market environment. Instead, we have assumed that a man who sold who terminated the connection between family and land - was governed almost by caprice.(60)

Economically, who sold is as significant as who he sold to. Each insolvent tenant might have been followed by a new man, leaving the distribution of land unaltered, but the seventeenth century has long been understood to have seen the progressive disappearance of the small landowner. Two processes should perhaps be distinguished. There was the engrossing of tenements by other tenants within the same manor, well illustrated by the activities of Thomas Dillamore of Chippenham, Cambs., who, on his death in 1638, farmed lands which a century before had been in the hands of no fewer than fifteen tenants.(61) This was a process of promotion within the peasant community in which, so to speak, the pike in the pond ate the smaller fish. Engrossment seems more characteristic of the years before 1640; Harrison was complaining of it in the middle years of Elizabeth's reign.(62) There is also the experience of many villages where, after 1660, an external figure bought up property as an investment. In our present state of knowledge, it would be incautious to offer any judgement as to which was the more typical experience, though, as Christopher Clay has suggested, the first might be the necessary preliminary of the second.(63) In both instances, it seems most likely that the opportunity to purchase arose because small farms were increasingly unprofitable as the century progressed. "The swelling tide of sales by smaller owners to men of great resources which characterised this period [post-1660] in some, though not all, districts was due in part to the difficulty experienced by peasant farmers in managing on small resources in changing technical and marketing conditions."(64) To low farmgate prices we may also add the burden of higher rents charged on leases; taxes; and rising expectations. Margaret Spufford has suggested that the position of some farmers was undermined by their overambitious provision for their younger children, but we must also acknowledge that to live well in the later seventeenth century implied substantially improved living standards, and the consumption of products, for instance tobacco, sugar and tea, all of which were unknown at the beginning of the century. A combination of depressed commodity prices and raised outgoings was doubtless fatal to many.(65)

It is agreed that there were far fewer small landholders at the end of the seventeenth century than there were at the beginning, and fewer still by 1750, though clearly such a general observation must be tempered with an acknowledgement that the chronology and speed of change varied considerably from place to place according to local agrarian conditions.(66) We must appreciate that every instance of engrossment or incorporation into a larger estate brought to an end an instance of the familial possession of land. The family might remain on the very same land as tenants or in the village, but it no longer owned the land, whether as a free-holder or a copyholder. Ownership - not occupation or residence - is what is at stake here, and because of the drift of land into the hands of larger owners we cannot expect other than to find that the land-family bond was weak in the later seventeenth century. This does not indicate any lack of sentimental attachment to the familial land; indeed, the attachment may have been strongest when the fear of loss was greatest. These developments in the land market offer no evidence either way, but they do teach us that the land-family bond could only be strong when economic circumstances permitted its survival.(67) The most favourable period may well have been the century before 1650, the most disadvantageous the century following. It may, in time, be possible to identify the late seventeenth century as the moment when the hereditary copyhold or leasehold tenancy disappeared.

The peasant instinct, though, was to accumulate land and pass it on to the next generation. Land was the source of all wealth and status in rural communities. When freeholding or copyholding occupiers are seen selling and, most particularly, when engrossment is taking place, we may suspect distress. Landholding, and therefore the land-family bond, existed in a framework established by the action of impersonal, macroeconomic forces, acting on communities whose members relied on the sale of their produce in order to pay their rents and taxes and purchase consumables. It was the action of the market rather than the endeavours of landlords which served to dispossess the peasantry and produce the tenanted, day-labour-employing estate farms characteristic of the eighteenth century. The sentimental attachment to land, whether it existed or not, was helpless to resist such forces, and for this reason, it may be doubted whether an understanding of the working of the land market has much to tell us about the quality of relations within the family, which was our starting-point.

This paper was originally drafted at the invitation of Miss Barbara Harvey and Dr Richard Smith for a seminar held at All Souls College, Oxford, in 1992. In revising the paper for publication, I have been grateful for the comments of those who heard it read on that occasion, and in addition to Dr Joan Thirsk, Professor Marjorie McIntosh and latterly Dr Steve King. The views expressed are my own alone.

1 Alan Macfarlane, The Origins of English Individualism (Oxford, 1978). For other statements of his thesis, see A. Macfarlane, "The Myth of the Peasantry: Family and Economy in a Northern Parish", in R. M. Smith (ed.), Land, Kinship and Life-Cycle (Cambridge, 1984), pp. 333-49; A. Macfarlane, The Culture of Capitalism (Oxford, 1987), esp. ch. 1, and the postscript (where he defends himself against his reviewers and critics).

2 Liam Kennedy, "Farm Succession in Modern Ireland: Elements of a Theory of Inheritance", Econ. Hist. Rev., 2nd ser., xliv (1991), p. 478.

3 Macfarlane, "Myth of the Peasantry", p. 335.

4 Macfarlane, Origins of English Individualism, pp. 95-100.

5 R. A. Dodgshon, "'Pretense of Blude' and 'Place of thair Dwelling': The Nature of Highland Clans, 1500-1745", in R. A. Houston and I. D. Whyte (eds.), Scottish Society, 1500-1800 (Cambridge, 1989), pp. 169-98, esp. pp. 192-7.

6 G. Sreenivasan, "The Land-Family Bond at Earls Colne (Essex), 1550-1650", Past and Present, no. 131 (May 1991), pp. 3-37. Macfarlane has made his collections for Earls Colne available on microfiche: Records of an English Village: Earls Colne, 1400-1750, ed. A. Macfarlane (Cambridge, 1980-2). The discussion of Earls Colne which follows is based on the sources presented there. In archive references the microfiche reference for each document in this collection will be given in square brackets, as well as the original archive reference.

7 For an example of this, see J. V. Beckett, "The Disinheritance of Sir Christopher Lowther in 1701", Trans. Cumberland and Westmorland Antiq. and Archaeol. Soc., 2nd ser., lxxx (1980), pp. 131-6. The example of disinheritance used in both Macfarlane, Origins of English Individualism, pp. 92-3, and Macfarlane, "Myth of the Peasantry", pp. 341-2, conforms to this pattern. In this will (which is of 1582, not 1682 as printed), the testator, one John Woods of Lupton in Kirkby Lonsdale, disinherited his son because he would not follow his father's advice, nor be ordered by him, and moreover was not a fit person to serve the queen (that is, undertake border service, which was a condition of tenancy).

8 In the early twelfth-century Leges Henrici Primi, it is laid down that "no one may alienate his inheritance outside his kindred by gift and sale, as we have said, especially if the kindred rejects this and wishes to apply its own money to its acquisition". This contradicts an earlier clause in the laws which appears to oblige a father to give his "ancestral fee" to his first-born son (although it does give him some discretion over the disposition of other lands). But the first clause does show that the owner of land had the right of free sale outside his circle of kin if the latter declined to purchase it. See Leges Henrici Primi, ed. L. J. Downer (Oxford, 1972), sect. 88:14a (pp. 274-5), sect. 70:21, 21a (pp. 224-5).

9 M. Bateson, Borough Customs, 2 vols. (Selden Soc., xviii, xxi, London, 1904-6), ii, pp. 61-2 (in Bateson's translation).

10 Ibid., p. 63 (in Bateson's translation).

11 Ibid., p. 72.

12 Ibid., p. 67.

13 Leges Henrici Primi, sect. 88:15 (ed. Downer, pp. 274-7).

14 Bateson, Borough Customs, ii, p. 62 (in Bateson's translation). See too the Leges Quatuor Burgorum of c. 1270, ibid., p. 67.

15 Dover: p. 155 above; Northampton: Bateson, Borough Customs, ii, pp. 65-6.

16 Public Record Office, London (hereafter P.R.O.), C54/681, no. 64.

17 R. W. Hoyle, "A Mystery Resolved: The Discovery of the Dent Survey of 1602", Sedbergh Historian, ii, no. 3 (Spring 1988), p. 37.

18 P.R.O., C3/81/65 (undated, 1558 x 1579).

19 R. Brownlow and J. Goldesborough, Reports of Divers Cases in Law, 3rd edn, 2 vols. in 1 (London, 1675), ii, p. 199.

20 For Kingsthorpe, which is in effect a rural commune, see W. O. Ault, Open-Field Farming in Medieval England (London, 1972), pp. 72-5, and the brief comments of E. King, "Tenant Farming and Tenant Farmers: The East Midlands", in E. Miller (ed.), The Agrarian History of England and Wales, iii, 1348-1500 (Cambridge, 1991), p. 634; see also Kingsthorpiana, or Researches in a Church Chest, ed. J. H. Glover (London, 1883), pp. 41-2, 87.

21 Macfarlane, Origins of English Individualism, p. 68. (The village of Earls Colne was divided between the manors of Earls CoLne and Colne Priory.)

22 K. Wrightson and D. Levine, Poverty and Piety in an English Village: Terling, 1525-1700 (London, 1979), pp. 30-1.

23 Sreenivasan, "Land-Family Bond at Earls Colne", pp. 15-16.

24 We need a standard methodology to ensure that figures are, as far as possible, genuinely comparable. This will be difficult to attain, however, given that the character and quality of the material to be employed will differ considerably from manor to manor.

25 Z. Razi, "The Erosion of the Family-Land Bond in the Late Fourteenth and Fifteenth Centuries: A Methodological Note", in Smith (ed.), Land, Kinship and Life-Cycle, pp. 295-304.

26 C. M. Arensberg and S. M. Kimball, Family and Community in Ireland, 2nd edn (Cambridge, Mass., 1968), p. 173.

27 As in P.R.O., C78/62, no. 10, at m. [24.sup.v], in a decree of 1586 establishing the customs of the manor of Eversley, Hants, it was ordered that the wardship and lands of heirs should be committed to the custody of the mother "and for want of such mother then to the next able and sufficient man of the whole blood of the part of the mother unto whom the land cannot descend".

28 P.R.O., C78/78, no. 9, at mm. 13-14, citing an award of 1564.

29 Sreenivasan, "Land-Family Bond at Earls Colne", pp. 12-13, transfer from John Pearson to Israel Ennew. For the births of John Pearson's daughters, see Earls Colne (hereafter E.C.) Baptism Register, 28 Feb. 1591 [65.06029], 18 Feb. 1592 [65.06499], 6 Feb. 1595 [65.07013], 25 July 1597 [65.07509], 20 Dec. 1599 [65.07989], 19 Aug. 1602 [66.00536], Essex Record Office, Chelmsford (hereafter E.R.O.), D/P209/1/1. All are named in the will of their maternal grandfather, John Green, 6 Feb. 1607 [34.00340], E.R.O., D/ABW17/67.

30 Cf. Sreenivasan, "Land-Family Bond at Earls Colne", p. 17.

31 Ibid., p. 13: "These complex patterns are much harder to discern than the cases of simple generational descent, and are hence easily taken for alienations outside the family. They materially alter any pessimistic judgement of the strength of the land-family bond in early modern Earls Colne".

32 Any discussion of the land-family bond based on court roll material alone is therefore examining a minority experience among landholders.

33 Macfarlane, Origins of English Individualism, pp. 67-8. The fact that so much of the village was demesne raises the doubt whether the landholding of its copyholders can ever be termed "typical".

34 On the other hand, there is the danger that individuals who held small acreages in the manorial rent-roll might actually have been farming extensive areas on customary sublettings or rack rents. C. J. Harrison offers from Cannock, Staffs., the cases of one Bostock who held 9 acres of which he let 8, but who also held (as a subtenant) over 200 acres, and of one Colman, who held 118 acres, some of which he let, but subtenanted a further 187 acres, making a farming unit of 278 acres: C. J. Harrison, "Elizabethan Village Surveys: A Comment", Agric. Hist. Rev., xxvii (1979), p. 87.

35 Calculated from Sreenivasan, "Land-Family Bond at Earls Colne", Tables 2 and 3. The size of units in the other categories is even smaller.

36 The danger is that rentals may be revised after periods of change which have made the previous rental outdated. Hence a calculation such as this will inevitably span a period of discontinuity in the possession of lands.

37 The manor of Slaidburn consists of the four townships of Slaidburn, Grindleton, West Bradford and Newton in Bowland. The following analysis is taken from R. W. Hoyle, "Land and Landed Relations in Craven, Yorkshire, c. 1520-1600" (Univ. of Oxford D. Phil. thesis, 1987), ch. 4 (pp. 92-187). I hope to publish a fuller study of this material in the future.

38 Harrison, "Elizabethan Village Surveys"; Hoyle, "Land and Landed Relations", pp. 131-4.

39 For the purchase of customary lands by Londoners as investment properties, see A. C. Jones, "Bedfordshire: Fifteenth Century", in P. D. A. Harvey (ed.), The Peasant Land Market in Medieval England (Oxford, 1984), pp. 189-91, 234-5 [Leighton Buzzard, Beds.]; P. Glennie, "In Search of Agrarian Capitalism: Manorial Land Markets and the Acquisition of Land in the Lea Valley, c.1450-c.1560", Continuity and Change, iii (1988), pp. 11-40, esp. pp. 23-8; M. K. McIntosh, A Community Transformed: The Manor and Liberty of Havering 1500-1620 (Cambridge, 1991), pp. 100-1 [Essex].

40 Hoyle, "Land and Landed Relations", pp. 134, 145.

41 Sreenivasan, "Land-Family Bond at Earls Colne", p. 234.

42 By William Evans to John Hawksby: ibid., p. 32.

43 Ibid., p. 34.

44 I exclude the case of Joan Allen (ibid., pp. 29-30) where the court roll expressly states that she claimed dower in a parcel sold by her husband.

45 Discussed ibid., pp. 30-1. The accounts which follow are based on a reanalysis of the cases cited by Sreenivasan, made by returning to the microfiche. So far as possible, citations will be kept to a minimum; additional points may be confirmed by using the indexes to the fiche.

46 E.C. Manor Court Rolls (hereafter M.C.R.), 21 May 1521 [615.00491], E.R.O., D/DPr 99. I would guess from the context that Game was Campion's son-in-law, but Sreenivasan appears to read it as an alienation between strangers.

47 E.C. M.C.R., 15 May 1554 [648.00458, 648.00491], E.R.O., D/DPr 99; E.C. M.C.R., 16 May 1559 [653.00612], E.R.O., D/DPr 91; E.C. M.C.R., 21 June 1568 [656.01183], E.R.O., D/DPr 91.

48 E.C. M.C.R., 27 May 1561 [653.01952], E.R.O., D/DPr 91; E.C. M.C.R., 12 June 1590 [669.00387], E.R.O., D/DPr 76; E.C. M.C.R., 5 Jan. 1590 [668.00492], E.R.O., D/DPr 76.

49 E.C. M.C.R., 22 Sept. 1599 [672.00454], E.R.O., D/DPr 76; E.C. Manor Fine-Book, 1618 [240.00832], E.R.O., D/DPr 100; E.C. Manor Fine-Book, 1620 [240.00966], E.R.O., D/DPr 100.

50 C. Watkins, A Treatise on Copyholds, 4th edn, 2 vols. (London, 1825), i, pp. 423 ff. For a late sixteenth-century case turning on the accidental extinguishment of a copyhold through the uniting of freehold and copyhold interests, see P.R.O., C78/112, no. 4 (1600).

51 E.C. M.C.R., 14 July 1627 [382.00287], E.R.O., D/DPr 77; E.C. M.C.R., 12 Oct. 1637 [386.01249], E.R.O., D/DPr 78.

52 Colne Priory (hereafter C.P.) Court Rolls, 19 Feb. 1606 [331.01029], E.R.O., D/DPr 21.

53 That this matter may have been contentious can be seen from the late fifteenth-century customs from Painswick, Glos., where it is held that "if a man have divers sons, and the eldest dieth having issue of his body lawfully begotten, whether it be male or female, after the grandfather dieth the issue of the eldest brother shall inherit as next heir to the grandfather": W. St Clair Baddeley, A Gotteswold Manor: Being the History of Painswick, 2nd edn (Gloucester, 1929), p. 131.

54 C.P. Court Rolls, 3 Nov. 1604 [331.00344, 331.00357, 331.00377, 331.00393], E.R.O., D/DPr 21; C.P. Court Rolls, 19 Feb. 1606 [331.01029], E.R.O., D/DPr 21.

55 See, for instance, Kennedy, "Farm Succession in Modern Ireland". On retirement agreements, see R. M. Smith, "The Manorial Court and the Elderly Tenant in Late Medieval England", in M. Pelling and R. M. Smith (eds.), Life, Death and the Elderly: Historical Perspectives (London, 1991), pp. 39-61.

56 The literature on this is now large: see, for instance, R. J. Faith, "Peasant Families and Inheritance Customs in Medieval England", Agric. Hist. Rev., xiv (1966), pp. 77-95, esp. pp. 86-92; R. M. Smith, "Some Issues concerning Families and their Property in Rural England, 1250-1800", in Smith (ed.), Land, Kinship and Life-Cycle, pp. 1-86, esp. pp. 58-9; C. Dyer, "Changes in the Size of Peasant Holdings in some West Midland Villages, 1400-1540", ibid., pp. 277-94; C. Dyer, "Changes in the Link between Families and Land in the West Midlands in the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Centuries", ibid., pp. 305-11; Razi, "Erosion of the Land-Family Bond". See too the observations of Smith, "Manorial Court and the Elderly Tenant", pp. 51-5.

57 Arensberg and Kimball, Family and Community in Ireland, p. 133.

58 A point I first owe to Dr R. B. Outhwaite and more recently to Dr S. King.

59 Hoyle, "Land and Landed Relations", pp. 156-61; N. Evans, "Farming and Land-Holding in Wood-Pasture East Anglia, 1550-1650", Proc. Suffolk Inst. Archaeology and Hist., xxxv (1984), pp. 310-11; M. Spufford, Contrasting Communities: English Villagers in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries (Cambridge, 1973), ch. 3 (pp. 58-93), all find weak correlations with harvest crisis. A reliance on credit might defer the sale of lands for some years: Spufford, Contrasting Communities, pp. 78-80.

60 Compare the medieval jurists cited above, pp. 154-6, who saw sale as being justified by poverty or illness. For diversification into cash crops, see J. Thirsk, "Seventeenth-Century Agriculture and Social Change", in J. Thirsk (ed.), Land, Church and People: Essays Presented to Professor H. P. R. Finberg (Agric. Hist. Rev., xviii, supplement, Reading, 1970), pp. 148-77; J. Thirsk, "Agricultural Innovations and their Diffusion", in J. Thirsk (ed.), The Agrarian History of England and Wales, v, 1640-1750, 2 vols. (Cambridge, 1985), ii, pp. 533-59.

61 Engrossing "signified the amalgamation of two or more farms into one. The superfluous farmhouse was either left to fall into decay, or, with a small piece of land attached to it, was downgraded to accommodate a cottager". For contemporary complaints about engrossing, see J. Thirsk, "Enclosing and Engrossing", in J. Thirsk (ed.), The Agrarian History of England and Wales, iv, 1500-1640 (Cambridge, 1967), quotation from p. 201. For Dillamore, see Spufford, Contrasting Communities, pp. 76, 81-2.

62 Harrison's Description of England, ed. F. J. Furnivall (New Shakspere Soc., vi, London, 1877), pp. 259-60.

63 C. Clay, "Landlords and Estate Management in England", in Thirsk (ed.), Agrarian History of England and Wales, v, 1640-1750, ii, pp. 119-251, at p. 175; see his chapter in general for the land market after 1660.

64 Ibid., p. 175.

65 See Spufford, Contrasting Communities, ch. 2; M. Spufford, "Peasant Inheritance Customs and Land Distribution in Cambridgeshire from the Sixteenth to the Eighteenth Centuries", in J. Goody, J. Thirsk and E. P. Thompson (eds.), Family and Inheritance: Rural Society in Western Europe, 1200-1800 (Cambridge, 1976), pp. 177-91, esp. pp. 165-6. On rising living standards, see L. Weatherill, Consumer Behaviour and Material Culture in Britain, 1660-1760 (London, 1988).

66 The literature is helpfully reviewed, and the point about regionalism made, in J. V. Beckett, "The Decline of the Small Landowner in Eighteenth- and Nineteenth-Century England: Some Regional Considerations", Agric. Hist. Rev., xxx (1982), pp. 97-111.

67 The relevance of this analysis to circumstances at Earls Colne needs to be tested by a full study of the land market there (in which I engaged with Dr Henry French), but it serves as a hypothesis to explain the observations already made.

R. W. Hoyle University of Central Lancashire
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