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Division or consolidation of communal lands in Western Europe into the carefully delineated and individually owned farm plots of modern times. Before enclosure, farmland was under the control of individual cultivators only during the growing season; after harvest and before the next growing season, the land was used by the community for the grazing of livestock and other purposes. In England the movement for enclosure began in the 12th century and proceeded rapidly from 1450 to 1640; the process was virtually complete by the end of the 19th century. In the rest of Europe, enclosure made little progress until the 19th century. Common rights over arable land have now been largely eliminated.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on enclosure movement, visit Britannica.com.
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