The Rural Poor in Eighteenth-Century Wales

By David W. Howell | Go to book overview

1
Prologue
Setting the Scene: The Land and the People

1. The Pattern of Farming

To a significant extent the configuration of the land and the climate in all areas of the world together determine the type of farming pursued and the pattern of settlement.1 Its eastern border apart, Wales is surrounded by sea, and its relief comprises essentially a central highland block fringed by lowland, some of the latter stretching along river valleys far into the highland reaches. Diversity, of course, obtains within this overall pattern, which in turn dictates distinctive regional farming systems. The central highland changes character as it stretches southwards, the sharp mountainous terrain of the north smoothing out into the rolling uplands of the south. The lowland zone, too, between mountain and sea varies in extent. Apart from Anglesey and the Llyn peninsula, the coastal plain in the north and west is narrow, contrasting with the more extensive lowlands along the south coast. Inland, the eastern border region comprises three main lowland areas which stretch as river valleys into the central uplands, along the Usk and the Wye in the south, the Severn in mid-Wales and the Dee in the north. The coastal lowlands, in places, too, penetrate far into the highland core along the river valleys. Whilst in the west the lower reaches of the valleys are narrow, those running north and south broaden out as they approach the coast.

That the lowlands comprise only a small proportion of Wales and Monmouthshire is a crucial determinant of the overall pattern of Welsh farming. Given that nearly 60 per cent of total land lies above 500 feet,2 the most important factors limiting farming practice are rainfall and the amount of sunshine hours and temperature, the last two controlling the length of the growing season.3 Its moist conditions dictate that Wales is naturally suited to growing grass, and this largely explains the predominantly pastoral character of Welsh farming over the centuries. Wide

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The Rural Poor in Eighteenth-Century Wales
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • List of Maps, Figures and Tables vi
  • Acknowledgements ix
  • Abbreviations xi
  • Introduction xiii
  • 1: Prologue Setting the Scene 1
  • Part I - Wresting a Mere Subsistence 31
  • 2: Tenant Farmers and Small Freeholders 33
  • 3: Craftsmen and Artisans 58
  • 4: The Labouring Poor 66
  • 5: The Dependent Poor 93
  • 6: Relations in Working the Land 116
  • Part II - Rough and Rebellious Communities 135
  • 7: Popular Culture, Religion and Alternative Belief 137
  • 8: The People and Politics 157
  • 9: Riots and Popular Resistance 177
  • 10: Violent and Light-Fingered Neighbourhoods 209
  • 11: Epilogue 'the Old Order Changeth' 241
  • Notes 247
  • Bibliography 296
  • Index 308
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