Luke Walker chapter 21 starts here!

For all the Luke Walker chapters click here 🙂

Chapter 2:  Mufti Day

The Enclosure Acts:

A series of Acts of Parliament that empowered enclosure [eg with fences] of open fields and common land in England and Wales, creating legal property rights to land that was previously held in common. Between 1604 and 1914, over 5,200 individual enclosure Acts were passed, covering 6.8 million acres.

From https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inclosure_Acts

When the bell went there followed the usual noisy, chaotic movement of pupils through the corridors as everyone relocated to a different classroom for their next lesson.  Luke and Joe rushed into Mrs King’s room ahead of the rest of their class to get the best seats – at the back desk by the window.  They’d heard from their form tutor at registration that Mrs King was off sick again and when Mrs King was away it was imperative they got a window seat.

History was one of the few subjects at school that Luke was interested in.  He wouldn’t go as far as to say he looked forward to the lessons, because things that required him to sit still, be quiet and do as he was told were never going to be a preferred use of his time, but he didn’t mind them.  That was probably because he liked Mrs King.

Mrs King absolutely loved history.  She made everything interesting because she talked about it with such energy and enthusiasm.  Unfortunately she’d been off sick a lot lately and that meant a substitute.  Substitute teachers weren’t bad people, Luke had nothing against them personally.  But a teacher who doesn’t know anybody; who has no idea where the class is up to in their lessons; and who didn’t even know they’d be teaching at that school until half an hour before school started, is probably going to just give them printouts.

“Good morning,” said the woman behind Mrs King’s desk, “I’m Mrs Abbot and I’ll be taking you for History today.”  A few people started rummaging in their bags for their text books and pencil cases.  “Hold your horses,” Mrs Abbot said, “you won’t need those today, we’ve got some printouts.”

Luke looked knowingly at Joe.

“See,” he whispered.

“I know,” whispered Joe, a little irritated, “I knew as well as you did.”

“When the pile gets to you, please take one and then pass them to the next person.”  Mrs Abbot gave a stack of photocopies to Caroline at the front and everybody waited for it to arrive at their desks.  Nobody was impatient to see what was on it.

“Okay,” Mrs Abbot went on, “as you’ll see from your sheets, we’re going to be thinking about the Enclosure Acts which changed the way land was used in this country.  I want you to read the information I’ve given you and then consider whether you think Enclosure was a good thing or a bad thing.

“Many scholars have discussed it over the years and have come to very different conclusions.  I want you to read their opinions and then decide what you think.”  When she stopped talking everyone looked down at their sheets and began to read.  Before most of them had got to the second paragraph she added, “Read both sides.”

After ten minutes – the time by which Mrs Abbot expected everyone to have read the texts, she began the discussion.

“So, what do we think – was Enclosure a good thing or a bad thing?”

Andrew Bennett put up his hand.

“Yes, blonde boy at the front – what do you think?”

“I think it was all necessary for progress.  We had a growing population that needed to be fed so farming needed to be more efficient and less wasteful.”

“Okay, and what would you say if I told you that, according to Dr Michael Turner, a History lecturer at Hull University, in the second quarter of the eighteenth century there was actually plenty of cheap food for a population that was only slowly increasing.  Why would Enclosure be needed then, if the existing farming practices were providing everything everybody needed?”

“Some people wanted more – the land owners wanted more,” called out Nicky Witticomb.

“Indeed they did young man,” said Mrs Abbot, “yes, in fact cheap food at the market meant farmers’ incomes weren’t increasing as they would have liked so, in an effort to get more money from their land, they moved away from the broadly fixed incomes of arable farming, and into the expanding area of pastoral farming.  Then, as demand for meat and dairy products increased, farmers were able to earn more from their land by substituting grass for crops.”  She looked around the room for more contributors.  “Anyone else?  Was Enclosure a good thing or a bad thing?”

“Both,” said Lucy Evans.  “It was good for the land owners because they could use all their land without wasting strips in between … strips.  But it was bad for the people who didn’t own land because they couldn’t farm those common strips any more.  They used to be able to grow their own food and be self sufficient, but after enclosure they had to go to the cities to earn a wage.”

“Good, good, okay well …”

“All property is theft!”  interrupted Nicky, “those land owners didn’t have any right to own the land – they just took it, or their ancestors did.  The land belongs to everybody.  Everybody should have the right to build their little log cabin wherever they like, and collect their fuel from the woods and grow their own food.”  He concluded with a quote.  “We do not inherit the Earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children.”

Mrs Abbot smiled.  “Okay, we’ve got some strong opinions here.  Good.  Anybody want to take issue with this young man … what’s your name?”

“Nicky.”

“Does anyone want to take issue with Nicky’s opinion?”

“Enclosure made farming more efficient,” said Andrew, “less labour was needed to produce more food.  It stopped farm animal diseases spreading to all the animals in the village, and they could do more selective breeding to get better animals which produce more milk or meat.”

“Hmm, okay, anyone else?  Young man at the back, would you like to venture an opinion or are you more interested in how many red lorries are travelling west?”

Luke, who had no interest in lorries but was gazing out of the window anyway, didn’t realise at first that the teacher was addressing him.  A nudge from Joe got his attention.

“What do you think?”  Mrs Abbot asked again, “good thing or bad thing?”

“What?” asked Luke, “is what a good thing?”

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The story continues tomorrow 😀

But if you don’t want to wait, you can read it all here now 😀

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vegan, vegetarian, vegan children, vegan children’s story, creative writing, juvenile fiction

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