Aspects of agrarian change in south-west Lancashire

Gritt, Andrew Jonathan (2000) Aspects of agrarian change in south-west Lancashire. Doctoral thesis, University of Central Lancashire.

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This thesis examines agricultural and agrarian developments 1650-1850 in a region - south-west Lancashire - that was increasingly dominated by industry and large urban centres. The thesis is firmly located within two distinct historiographical traditions: 'agrarian capitalism' and 'agricultural revolution'. The debates encompassed by these concepts have been largely conducted around the development of arable agriculture. Large parts of the north and west of England have been peripheral to these debates and the models of agrarian development were not constructed with counties like Lancashire in mind. This thesis, therefore, offers a geographical corrective to the existing literature. Not surprisingly, the models are found wanting, and patterns of agrarian and agricultural developments in Lancashire follow a different path to arable counties in the English Midlands and East Anglia. Yet, agriculture in Lancashire did not stagnate and farmers and landlords were enclosing and improving land from at least the middle of the seventeenth century in a bid to increase productivity. However, change was much more pronounced from the last third of the eighteenth century, when population growth, industrial expansion, increasing market demand for food and the development of the transport infrastructure offered new opportunities to farmers. They responded in a way which suited the local economic and social setting. In terms of farm size, labour structure and land use, the farmers of south-west Lancashire fell outside contemporary (and subsequent) perceptions of best practice. Lancashire developed a highly specialised and productive agricultural system that was not predicated upon conventional agrarian capitalism and avoided many of the negative outcomes of the processes of agricultural revolution.

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