5 - Enclosure, inflation, that Henry and the Monasteries

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  • new middle class emerging between aristocracy and labouring classes, not to be confused with the middle classes nowadays.
  • net loss of precious metals in Europe due to drop in production, trade for spice and silk plus used in ostentatious wealth.
  • Spanish use profits from wool trade to build big ships and 'discover' America and with the help of gunpowder persuade the locals to give up their silver, leading to European wide inflation and massive new profits for merchant middle class
  • failed first industrial revolution – legislation against factories and enclosure (1555)
  • Henry VIII orders all pasture be converted back to arable - does not have the strength to implement statute - land owners (Justices Of Peace!) already rule countryside (1515)
  • Henry VIII claims church and church assets for himself to increase power and wealth (1536)
  • 1st big redistribution of land since Normans; seized church land is about 1/5 of the country. Land sold to newly moneyed with no sense of paternalism and a desire to get quick and large a return on their investment.

songs, poems, quotes and stories

  • The Fowlers' Complaint (1611)
  • The Poor Mans Joye (1607)
  • A Lantern for Landlords (1630)
  • Of Rente Raysers by Robert Crowley (1550)

washing line

  • treasure image
  • 1515 Henry VIII orders all pasture be converted back to arable
  • 1536 Dissolution of the Monasteries

Sample Text

In the years since the Peasants' Revolt, a new middle class is gaining power and becoming more prominent between the peasantry and the aristocracy. We'll refer to this newly monied class as the merchant class for the time being and they had been doing very well off the wool trade.

One limiting factor preventing the growth of their class and their early capitalist economy was lack of capital. Precious metals gold and silver were in short supply as little was being mined in Europe and much of what there was either made into medieval bling and or was flowing out of Europe via the silk and spice routes.

Spain which along with England had amassed a fortune on the wool trade, built huge ships and used them to take a load of gunpowder over to South America. This was used to 'persuade' the locals to part with their silver and to mine even more of it for them for free.

This massive injection of silver into Europe contributed to the first ever major inflation in England which meant that many people (both high born and low born) found their money worth much less but the merchant middle men started to get very rich quickly.

Henry VIII and other Tudor monarchs legislated against enclosure during this period in an attempt to reign in fortunes being made by others. People pulling down hedges and fences enclosing common land often called themselves 'Levellers'.{Peg 1515 Henry VIII and 1536 Edward IV}

These largely failed because often the very people they depended on to enforce such anti-enclosure acts were either directly or indirectly profiting from the land grabs.

In a bid to gain more power and to improve the crowns finances preventing the flow of money out of England to the Pope, Henry VIII destroyed the Catholic Church in England and took hold of all of their assets which at that time was around a fifth of the country. Well done Church!

Although this gave the monarchy a short term injection of cash it ultimately sowed the seeds of their destruction as the land was mostly sold of to the newly monied merchant class who over the next hundred years ruthlessly used it to amass even more money and power at the expense of the peasantry.

Around this time we start finding records of peoples' songs of resistance to such land grabs. The one I am going to sing now is... … (Fowlers Complaint)