By Joan Thirsk
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Extra resources for Agricultural Regions and Agrarian History in England, 1500–1750
Professor Kerridge separates the High Weald from the Low Weald, since their soils were different. He notes as one common feature of both that neither had common fields. But he differentiates them by emphasising in the Low Weald its cold clays, and its up-and-down husbandry, whereby grassland was ploughed up for two to four years, followed by six to seven years of grass. The main business was cattle-fattening with some sheep-fattening, the store cattle and sheep being brought in from the High Weald as well as elsewhere.
Should that dramatic title now be applied to the earlier period? Professor Kerridge claims that it should. ' Agricultural historians of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries have responded to this bold challenge by acknowledging that most of the technical advances associated with their agricultural revolution did, in fact, begin in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries [77, 123]. But agricultural changes are slow to achieve their full potential. So Professor Mingay sums up the now admittedly longer history of agricultural improvement thus: 'Considered in the broadest sense, the development of modern farming can be seen as stretching back into the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, gathering pace in the later eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and proceeding at its fastest in the present century' [76, 1-3].
Liming was more commonly practised, whereby the improved grass made it possible to winter more livestock . (13) Some graziers even bought Scottish cattle in order to make the most of this opportunity. At the same time the droving of cattle from Scotland and Wales to London placed some moorland districts on a well-trodden route which established their own cattle dealings on a sounder footing in the national scheme of things. They were made even more secure when the government in 1663 and 1667 passed the acts prohibiting the import of young Irish cattle, thus guaranteeing to English breeders a higher price for animals that now became a much more scarce commodity.