How did enclosure and crop rotation pave the way for an agricultural revolution?
The development of enclosures is attributed to the agricultural revolution, especially in Europe. The process occurs when small holdings of land are merged to create one large farm, which is under the authority of one or more owners. The authority is transferable through title deeds which can be referred to as proof of ownership. Enclosures ended the perpetual state of poverty caused by subsistence farming by offering the land owner better opportunities to achieve profitability by improving the agricultural efficiency and applying farming best practices. This also helped in improving the status of farm labor and output since people were hired to work on the farm, and earned wages or salaries. The enclosures also offered the owners an opportunity to pursue profitability and not only to focus on satisfying their food and clothing needs.
Crop rotation is the practice of alternating the types of crops one grows on the farm seasonally. This helps in improving the general state of the soil and also serves as a method of pest control in the farm. This in turn improves soil fertility and enhances its productivity. Through these benefits, crop rotation played an important role in the agricultural revolution, which was a period of increased agricultural technology and productivity.
First, we should note that these innovations took place at different times. Crop rotation, also known as the three field system, was introduced during the Middle Ages, sometime after 1000 AD. This helped cause an agricultural revolution because it increased crop yields. By planting different crops in a given field each year (or allowing it to lie fallow), farmers prevented the depletion of nutrients in the soil. In addition, the use of this system meant that 2/3 of the land rather than 1/2 would be cultivated each year.
The enclosure system did not become common until the 1500s. This system took away the peasants' right to work a certain amount of land on their own. Instead, the person who owned the land would enclose it, make it in to one plot, and often raise sheep on it. This led to more efficient use of the land, which helped to increase yields. Land would now be farmed as one big plot instead of as many little ones with wasted space in between.
Both of these changes, though separated by centuries in time, helped to increase agricultural yields. This increase can be seen as an "agricultural revolution."