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field systems


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Perhaps the best‐known system was the common, or open field, system of farming in which the land of a particular parish was divided into two, three, four, or even more fields depending on local conditions. The system is usually dated to the Anglo‐Saxon era, and emerged with the division of land and livestock among a mass of small occupiers. The need for common folding compelled common management of intermixed parcels of land.

The common field system was found predominantly in midland England, and other systems were nearly as widespread. In upland regions, and particularly in Scotland, the system of infield‐outfield cultivation was found. In Scotland the infield was an area of land under permanent cultivation. The ‘outfield’ land lay in irregular patches at varying distances from the settlement. They were broken up and cropped on a shifting system. Each parcel might be cropped for four or five years and then allowed to rest for five years. See also enclosures.

Subjects: History.


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