What Is Enclosure in World History?

Enclosure is a term used to describe the process of enclosing land for private use or ownership. This practice has been prevalent in world history for centuries, and its impact can still be felt today. In this article, we will explore what enclosure is, its history, and its effects on society.

History of Enclosure

The concept of enclosure can be traced back to medieval Europe when the lords began to enclose common lands for their own use. This practice continued through the Tudor period in England when wealthy landowners began enclosing large tracts of land for sheep farming, which was more profitable than traditional agriculture.

During the Industrial Revolution in the 18th and 19th centuries, there was a surge in enclosure as landowners saw opportunities to profit from the development of factories and urbanization. This led to many farmers losing their livelihoods as they were forced off their land.

Effects of Enclosure

The effects of enclosure have been far-reaching and have had both positive and negative impacts on society.

One positive effect of enclosure was increased agricultural productivity. By enclosing lands, farmers could experiment with new crops and farming techniques without interference from commoners or livestock. Enclosed fields were also easier to manage as they could be plowed and harvested with machines.

However, the negative impacts of enclosure were more significant. The displacement of small farmers led to widespread poverty and social unrest. Many former farmers were forced into urban areas where they struggled to find work due to competition from factory laborers.

Enclosure also created a new class system based on wealth rather than birthright. Wealthy landowners gained significant power over their workers, who were often paid low wages and subjected to poor working conditions.


In conclusion, enclosure is a historical phenomenon that has had both positive and negative effects on society. Although it increased agricultural productivity, it also led to the displacement of small farmers and the creation of a new class system based on wealth.

Today, many countries have laws in place to prevent or regulate enclosure, but its impact can still be felt on a global scale. It is important to understand the history and effects of enclosure to recognize its significance in shaping the world we live in today.