People in History: A farm labourer in industrial England

Farm labourers in 19th century England.
Main page: Industrial England

You started studying the history of farming in First Year with the Neolithic people. You saw farming in Britain and Ireland develop in the Middle Ages, with crop rotation and the open field system. Now, with the Agricultural Revolution in the 19th Century, you'll see how farming changed from that to the way we know it now.

Enclosure meant that farms were no longer owned by the community, but by individuals. A new system of crop rotation was developed to speed up the production of crops. Selective breeding was introduced to improve livestock.

The farm labourer in the Agricultural Revolution is an occasional People in History question which seems to appear every few years.

  • Introduce yourself. You are a farm labourer in, say, Wessex. You can say that your ancestors and your landlord's ancestors have lived here since the Middle Ages.
  • Talk about the changes happening to farming. What do they mean for farmers across Britain?
  • Mention Norfolk crop rotation and compare it to the system you had before. Who invented it? Why is it better? Where does the extra food go?
  • Once you've answered that last question (the answer is 'to the animals'), talk about the animals. Selective breeding is another new development. Who came up with it? What changes is it making?
  • Talk about how farms themselves are changing through enclosure. What did the government do to make it happen? Was your landlord happy or not? What happens to poorer farmers?
  • Your work is being made easier by inventions. (seed drill, reaper, etc.) Talk about them and what they do. How do they make your work easier?
  • What effects is the Agricultural Revolution having on Britain? There's more food, so the population is growing. What does this mean for farms and cities?What else is happening in cities? Have you already noticed more people moving to work in factories? This is a good way to end the answer.

So, in short...

  1. Introduce yourself.
  2. Mention that changes are happening to farming:
  3. Norfolk Crop Rotation
  4. Selective Breeding
  5. Enclosure
  6. Inventions
  7. The effects of the Agricultural Revolution. 

  • talk in third-person. This is a first person answer. (e.g. I am, I will...)
  • name a term (e.g. crop rotation or seed drill) and not explain what it means. You will lose marks if you don't.
  • talk about anything irrelevant (e.g. the weather). You will get no marks for irrelevant information.

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