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Title: The governance and management of common land in Shropshire between the sixteenth and nineteenth centuries
Author: Bowen, James Paul
Awarding Body: Lancaster University
Current Institution: Lancaster University
Date of Award: 2013
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This thesis explores the history of common land in Shropshire. Adopting a case study approach, this local study examines contrasting types of commons landscapes, conceptualising an alternative to the models of lowland Midland southern England and the uplands of the highland zone, acknowledging the distinction between common field and woodland countryside. Offering a new regional perspective which can be characterised as that of wood-pasture countryside, this thesis provides a study of the management of common land as a property regime in the context of local agrarian economies and societies over the longue duree. The study of manor courts and common land engages with a series of historiographical themes, casting light on the importance of common land and resources, both agricultural and non-agricultural for local communities. It considers manor courts as the institution responsible for the governance and management of common land and as a form of local administration, and how this varied geographically and chronologically, and assesses the significance of by-laws, custom and good neighbourhood in regulating access and the sustainability of commons. Concerning debates about poverty, welfare and life-cycle, it examines the use of common land and its resources by cottagers and the poor and the role of manor courts in allocating manorial resources, operating in parallel with parish administration, and highlighting the interaction of statute regarding poor relief, vagrancy and cottage building at a local level. It shows commons resources were contested and disputed, commoners and the poor invoking custom and memory of past use rights to defend what they believed to be morally, and sometimes legally valid common rights. The thesis emphasises the continuation of manor courts as a form of local administration where their function regarding common land and resources continued, as well as other factors which facilitated their survival despite the rise of the parish. The findings of this thesis, when considered in relation to European and International theoretical approaches regarding common pool resources, suggests that local management did not work long-term. Whilst attempts were made to control and limit access to commons and their resources, the contrasting commons of Shropshire remained of vital importance, providing a range of resources beyond simply common right of pasture, which were exploited on the basis of rights, leg~l or otherwise. Finally, it concludes that the highpoint in common land usage was the seventeenth and early to mid-eighteenth centuries and that subsequently the management of wood-pasture commons deteriorated with increasing pressure placed on its resources by those with and without formal common right. As a result of the breakdown of manorial regulation, commons went into decline being subsequently enclosed and improved.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available