Harold S. A. Fox


The origins of the two- and three-field system in England: Past conjectures and future research

Harold S. A. Fox

Geographia Polonica (1978) vol. 38, pp. 109-118 | Full text

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The two- and three-field system dominated and regulated the lives ofmany English communities for a period spanning, at the least, seven hundredyears. It was crucial to the levels of subsistence of individual families. Equally,because so much of central England came under its sway, it cannot bediscounted as an influence on the economic performance of the country atlarge. At one time itself a highly significant innovation, the system subsequentlycame to constrain the innovations of a later age. Its rhythm andinstitutions imposed heavily upon the lives of those who were caught upin it and, along with other phenomena which tended to coincide with it(such as strong manorial control and the practice of impartible inheritance),gave a sociological distinctiveness to communities where it prevailed. Ourunderstanding of the demography, technical development and sociology ofrural England in the past demands a full understanding of the system in allits contexts, no less of its functioning and ultimate decline than of its originswhich are the subject of the following discussion.