I’d love to say I’ve read this but it would be a lie – the book review which the below quote came from gave me an excellent overview though! If any of you feel inclined to give it a read, please do let me know if you enjoy it. You can download a pdf of the book here.
This book explores the many different policies through which peasants were forced off the land—from the enactment of so-called Game Laws that prohibited peasants from hunting, to the destruction of the peasant productivity by fencing the commons into smaller lots—but by far the most interesting parts of the book are where you get to read Adam Smith’s proto-capitalist colleagues complaining and whining about how peasants are too independent and comfortable to be properly exploited, and trying to figure out how to force them to accept a life of wage slavery. (from good book review which is a useful essay in itself)
‘Three Acres And A Cow’ connects the Norman Conquest and Peasants’ Revolt with current issues like fracking, the housing crisis and transition town and food sovereignty movements via the Enclosures, English Civil War, Irish Land League and Industrial Revolution, drawing a compelling narrative through the radical people’s history of Britain in folk song, stories and poems.
Part TED talk, part history lecture, part folk club sing-a-long, part poetry slam, part storytelling session… Come and share in these tales as they have been shared for generations.
Tim Laycock read this delightful 1884 Dorset dialect anti enclosure poem by William Barnes at our Bridport show. It includes the prophetic lines:
“The children will soon have no place for to play in and if they do grow they will have a thin mushroom face with their bodies so sumple as dough”
You can hear a reading of the poem via the youtube video below. Note how similar the Dorset accent sounds to Jamaican in places, which is no coincidence as English indentured servants would have been around African slaves during the early days of the plantations, so would have influenced their accents.
They do zay that a travellèn chap Have a-put in the newspeäper now, That the bit o’ green ground on the knap Should be all a-took in vor the plough. He do fancy ’tis easy to show That we can be but stunpolls at best, Vor to leäve a green spot where a flower can grow, Or a voot-weary walker mid rest. Tis hedge-grubbèn, Thomas, an’ ledge-grubbèn, Never a-done While a sov’rèn mwore’s to be won.
The road, he do zay, is so wide As ’tis wanted vor travellers’ wheels, As if all that did travel did ride An’ did never get galls on their heels. He would leäve sich a thin strip o’ groun’, That, if a man’s veet in his shoes Wer a-burnèn an’ zore, why he coulden zit down But the wheels would run over his tooes. Vor ’tis meäke money, Thomas, an’ teäke money, What’s zwold an’ bought Is all that is worthy o’ thought.
Years agoo the leäne-zides did bear grass, Vor to pull wi’ the geeses’ red bills, That did hiss at the vo’k that did pass, Or the bwoys that pick’d up their white quills. But shortly, if vower or vive Ov our goslèns do creep vrom the agg, They must mwope in the geärden, mwore dead than alive, In a coop, or a-tied by the lag. Vor to catch at land, Thomas, an’ snatch at land, Now is the plan; Meäke money wherever you can.
The childern wull soon have noo pleäce Vor to plaÿ in, an’ if they do grow, They wull have a thin musheroom feäce, Wi’ their bodies so sumple as dough. But a man is a-meäde ov a child, An’ his limbs do grow worksome by plaÿ; An’ if the young child’s little body’s a-spweil’d, Why, the man’s wull the sooner decaÿ. But wealth is wo’th now mwore than health is wo’th; Let it all goo, If’t ’ull bring but a sov’rèn or two.
Vor to breed the young fox or the heäre, We can gi’e up whole eäcres o’ ground, But the greens be a-grudg’d, vor to rear Our young childern up healthy an’ sound, Why, there woont be a-left the next age A green spot where their veet can goo free; An’ the goocoo wull soon be committed to cage Vor a trespass in zomebody’s tree. Vor ’tis lockèn up, Thomas, an’ blockèn up, Stranger or brother, Men mussen come nigh woone another.
Woone day I went in at a geäte, Wi’ my child, where an echo did sound, An’ the owner come up, an’ did reäte Me as if I would car off his ground. But his vield an’ the grass wer a-let, An’ the damage that he could a-took Wer at mwost that the while I did open the geäte I did rub roun’ the eye on the hook. But ’tis drevèn out, Thomas, an’ hevèn out. Trample noo grounds, Unless you be after the hounds.
Ah! the Squiër o’ Culver-dell Hall Wer as diff’rent as light is vrom dark, Wi’ zome vo’k that, as evenèn did vall, Had a-broke drough long grass in his park; Vor he went, wi’ a smile, vor to meet Wi’ the trespassers while they did pass, An’ he zaid, “I do fear you’ll catch cwold in your veet, You’ve a-walk’d drough so much o’ my grass.” His mild words, Thomas, cut em like swords, Thomas, Newly a-whet, An’ went vurder wi’ them than a dreat.