Agricultural Regions and Agrarian History in England, by Joan Thirsk

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Contrariwise, a very labour-intensive crop that required little land, like tobacco, might be taken up by small family farmers because both land and labour needs fitted their circumstances admirably, while the heavy labour needs deterred the husbandman, yeoman and gentleman [23, II, Ch. 19; 86). In short, new agricultural crops and methods could not find their niche within varied farming systems without undergoing a long process of trial and error that could involve many delays and setbacks.

In the south, by contrast, parishes usually had more than one manor in them, and freeholders were twice as numerous. Almost certainly these two characteristics are interlinked, since divided lordship in a parish was liable to weaken the will and ability of individual landowners to extinguish freeholds. Certainly, judging by the results, small farmers with 20-100 acres apiece found it easier to hold their own in the southern district and hence they slowed down the rate of enclosure. It is also worth noting in this southern district yet another dovetailing of social and agricultural features: fruit-growing and hop-growing suited its greensand soils, but they also suited the working regimes of this class of farmers.

The stronger arable soils could tolerate an ordinary three-course rotation, but these cases were rare. In Norfolk a twocourse was possible, of grain and a fallow, followed by peas or oats and a fallow. But most usual was a system of convertible husbandry, by which farmers took two, three, or four crops only, followed by some years of grass leys. The main crop was barley, but occasionally rye, which likes a gravelly soil, was given pride of place. Buckwheat was not a common crop anywhere in England, but it was to be found on these heathlands, and it was specially valued in Norfolk for fattening poultry.

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