English peasants and agrarian policy of the Tudors and the first Stuarts: legislation and peasant mentality through social conflict communication (1550–1640-s)

Author(s):  V.P. Mitrophanov, Dr., Penza State University, Penza, Russia, alcatherine@yandex.ru,

E.Y. Aleshina, Penza State University, Penza, Russia, vm@england.ru

Issue:  Volume 45, №1

Rubric:  Topical issues of world history

Annotation:  The article focuses on the essence of social conflicts involving peasants in the period of 1550-1640-s and the constituents of these conflicts. The analysis of contemporary texts enables the authors to reveal the characteristic features of the peasant mentality in their attitude to enclosures, enclosure legislation and the monarchy’s agrarian policy as a whole. English-speaking historians highlighted the peasants’ reaction to enclosures in legal forms, but the special studies of this aspect are scarce. They paid more attention to the gentry’s attitude to the agrarian legislation of the Tudors and the first Stuarts. Moreover, it is noteworthy that some of them approached or partly studied this aspect of peasant history in their studies of agrarian history of 16th-17th century England. The statutes on restriction of enclosures, some of which were passed in Parliament and others which were extended until the next session, surely considered the interest of peasants holding full allotments (not less than 20 acres). Formally, the laws did not suppose any differ-ence between freeholders and copyholders and, on the whole, offered them good opportunities to search for protection from the gentry’s and landlords’ illegal land grab in courts of common law and courts of justice. For the peasants, this made it possible to solve the conflicts by peaceful means. Meanwhile, in the peasants’ social consciousness, a non-peaceful way of solving conflicts through revolts and insurgencies became more acceptable.

Keywords:  Statutes, enclosures, peasants, Parliament, plough-lands, mentality, social conflict.

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