Friday, May 8
This morning I carry on listening to a Radio 4 podcast; an episode of In Our Time in which Melvyn Bragg and three others discuss the life and poetry of John Clare.
Interestingly, we can explain his mental decline, by some accounts, through reference to the Enclosures Acts that passed in his adulthood and completely changed the landscape he knew and with which he identified. Once the land had changed, the trees had disappeared, and the Keep Out signs erected, he began to lose his sense of self.
The Future of Freedom Foundation’s website states that
Economic historian Sudha Shenoy states that, “Between 1730 and 1839, 4,041 enclosure bills passed, 581 faced counter-petitions, and 872 others also failed.” How far-reaching were those remaining thousands of successful acts? According to a study by J.M. Neeson, Commoners: Common Right, Enclosure and Social Change in England, 1700–1820 (winner of the 1993 Whitfield Prize of the Royal Historical Society) enclosures occurring between 1750 and 1820 dispossessed former occupiers from some 30 percent of the agricultural land of England.
As I listen I pass a gently enclosed tree, and notice that its companion also has a little enclosure. I wonder what purpose they serve, other than the merely decorative.
The episode ends, and Melvyn and another three guests begin talking about H.G. Wells and his book The Time Machine. I carry on walking.