Social Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy
Between the seventeenth and nineteenth centuries, England’s land owners experienced a dramatic transition from subsistence to commercial agriculture. They left behind the old goal of farming to maintain a livelihood. Instead, they began to see perceive different ways to invest in land for huge economic gains. Landowners would no longer rely on the obligations they were owed in the feudal system. The new values of the landed classes were self-interest and economic freedom. Opposition to the crown’s economic ideals fueled commercial life. A strong alliance between parliamentary democracy and capitalism was forged.
Yeoman were farmers that also great opportunity in the commercial boom. Most were not as wealthy as the gentry, but they owned a fair amount of acres of land. Some yeoman were actually only in the upper ranks of peasantry. Like other landowners, yeoman were extremely aggressive in finding ways to profit from their land. Enclosures were one of methods they used to maximize their capitol. An enclosure restricts land to its owner, and closes off common rights to use it. Yeoman farmers were the leaders of the revolution of agrarian capitalism.
Unfortunately, peasants suffered horrible losses due to this new commercial development. They lost all of the legal protection of the common rights to land. The abolition of the Star Chamber and enclosures devastated peasant livelihood. Many were forced off of their land completely. Little was done to support the displaced peasants. The government was clearly in the hands of the gentry and titled aristocracy. The Civil War removed the king as the last protection of the peasantry against the tide of the wealthier classes. Some young men were lucky enough to find occupations as industrial workers. However, many of the peasants were too old to be trained for a new career. They had too strong of a tie to rural life. Poor relief became a common necessity that...