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date: 19 March 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter discusses the arable field systems of the later medieval period and the demographic and social changes that lay behind their expansion, contraction, and enclosure. Field systems across the country are contrasted, the north of England and Scotland being less well understood. This was not a period of stasis, as has sometimes been implied. Instead, there was regional variation and change over time. The period before the Black Death contrasts provides evidence for the expansion and intensification of farming in the form of assarting, the sub-division of holdings, agricultural improvement, and the creation of new fields, including the reclamation of wetland landscapes for which there is significant evidence from landscape archaeology. After the Black Death agriculture contracted, arable was put down to grass, and direct demesne farming reduced. By the close of the period, a complex variety of field systems and land tenures existed across Britain.

Keywords: agriculture, tenure, open-field, field systems, assarting, Midland Field System, enclosure, Black Death, reclamation, improvement

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