The Open Fields of England
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
The open fields of England describes the system of agriculture that operated in medieval England before the establishment of present-day hedged farms surrounded by hedges or walls. The volume encompasses a wide range of primary data not previously assembled, to which are added the results of new research based upon a fifty-year study of open-field remains and their related documents. The whole of England is examined, describing eight different kinds of field-systems that have been identified and relating them to their associated land-use and settlement. Details of field structure are explained such as the demesne, the lord’s land, and the tenants’ holdings, as well as tenurial arrangements and farming methods. Previous explanations of open-field origins and possible antecedents to medieval fields are discussed. Various types of archaeological and historical evidence relevant to Saxon-period settlements and fields are presented, followed by the development of a new theory to explain the lay-out and planned nature of many field systems found in the central belt of England. A summary and suggestions for future research conclude the text. The numerous maps and photographs illustrate the contrasting complexities of different field systems. Of particular interest is the Gazetteer, which is organized by historic counties. Each county has a summary of its fields, including tabulated data and sources for future research, touching on the demesne, yardland size, work-service, assarts, and the physical remains of ridge and furrow. The Gazetteer acts as a national hand-list of field systems, opening the subject up to further research, and will prove essential to scholars of medieval agriculture.
'The Open Fields of England' by David Hall is published by Oxford University Press 2014, ISBN 978-0-19--870295-5. A hard copy is available in the University's Main Library.
PhD by Publication in Archaeology