University of Cambridge > Talks.cam > Graduate Workshops in Economic and Social History > Aspects of Agrarian Change in South Staffordshire: A Case Study of Kingswinford, 1650 to 1750

Aspects of Agrarian Change in South Staffordshire: A Case Study of Kingswinford, 1650 to 1750

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This paper examines the nature and extent of agrarian change and early industrial change in the parish of Kingswinford, south Staffordshire (now the West Midlands) in the early modern period. It addresses the dearth of work on pastoral regions as opposed to the much studied arable eastern and southern areas of England. Staffordshire is a county renowned for its precocious early population growth, and early industrial development in minerals such as coal, iron, metal-wares, and glass. It is a classic area of by-employment where, according to Thirsk, farming households took up domestic manufacture when work was slack. Using probate documents (and parish registers for a wider context) a quantitative analysis finds that the wealth of the whole sample of the parish and that of farmers and of the by-employed significantly decreased over time; the wealth-gap between the farmers and industrialists increasingly narrowed. The incentive to become by-employed must lie with the industrialists rather than with farming households, since the farmers were the richer of the two according to gross inventory wealth. However, there were proportionately less of the inventoried population practising by-employment as time progressed. With regard to changing farming patterns in a predominately pastoral region, the proportions of those involved in mixed farming and keeping livestock significantly decreased over time, particularly in sheep husbandry. The proportion of those farming, in terms of both those with an appropriate occupational designator or with the accoutrements of husbandry appraised in an inventory, appeared to be decreasing in the area with reasons for this decline difficult to determine.

This talk is part of the Graduate Workshops in Economic and Social History series.

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