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the rate and amount of decline in the richer and better-placed corn districts. The fourteen parishes included in this sub-district are situated in the arable belt of 'High Suffolk,' and in the same period of forty years show a percentage decrease of 15.6 per cent., as compared with 35.9 per cent. in the Kimbolton group. Finally, the revival of agriculture in East Anglia and the Eastern Midlands during the last few years is reflected in the slight but distinct increase in both districts during the decade 1901-1911.
The arable Eastern plain of England which we have just been considering is approximately delimited on the west by the wellmarked series of limestone ridges and clay uplands, which extend from the Cotswolds in the South through the Northamptonshire Heights into the rolling hills of Leicestershire. The large region lying between this series of uplands and the Welsh border is now as distinctively pastoral as the Eastern belt is arable. It is best, perhaps, to describe it as the Midland pasture belt, but it may be taken to include also the counties of Wiltshire, Dorsetshire, and Hampshire south of the Thames, since the Chalk Downs, which occupy the greater part of their surface, present conditions for agriculture rather similar to those of the limestone uplands north of the river. This Midland region can be again divided into two great sections: (a) The upland pastures of the centre, as illustrated particularly by Leicestershire and Rutlandshire, where stockrearing is predominant; (b) The lower-lying grass plains and vales of the West, where dairy-farming and in some districts fruitculture are the chief agricultural characteristics; of this type Herefordshire, Worcestershire, and Somersetshire afford good examples.
It is in this Midland region that the conversion of arable to pasture land has occurred on the greatest scale, as can be seen by a comparison of the maps published by the Board of Agriculture showing the distribution of cereals, of permanent pasture, animals, &c., in 1875 and 1895 respectively. Over a large part of the central uplands the conversion began earlier, as a direct result of the Agrarian Revolution, for owing to the character of the soil the region was so markedly adapted to pasture that the change was considered a desirable one, even when corn prices were high.' The agricultural districts of the West of England continued to grow corn-crops in considerable quantities, until the changes of the second half of the century made a transition necessary. The region as a whole can be considered as one of convertible husbandry,' able to change the type of its agriculture and to adapt it to the new conditions.
This adaptation, although naturally it showed many variations,
1 Marshall, writing in 1786, notes that: "Leicestershire, not long ago, was an open arable country: now it is a continued sheet of greensward.”
VOL. LXXI-No. 419
tended to assume one of two well-marked forms: (a) The development of large-scale stock-farming, entailing a great increase of the area under permanent pasture. This was the normal transition over the greater part of the central uplands, and was naturally followed in most cases by a considerable decrease in the amount of labour required. The third table, showing the movement of population in the united sub-districts of Barrowden and Great Easton (Rutland and Leicestershire), is intended to illustrate the extent of the rural exodus from parishes in the pasture zone; (b) The development of intensive fruit culture and market-garden production in districts where the physical and economic conditions favoured this type of agriculture. In the Vale of Evesham we have a classical example of this type, and one which admirably illustrates its effects upon the stability of rural labour, for as it is situated at a considerable distance from the great cities, the composition of its population is not complicated by the intrusion of a suburban or residential element, as is the case with perhaps the majority of districts where this type of agriculture prevails. It is also of special interest owing to the fact that the beginnings of the fruit and kindred industries in the vale date from a time previous to the agricultural depression. They have, however, been immensely extended during the period in question, and present three features of special importance to the present inquiry. (1) They constitute a type of agricultural life which forms the nearest English analogy to that prevailing in Holland, Belgium, and many parts of France. (2) The type is one which in the Vale of Evesham, and in other districts of the same character, is associated with a relatively minute division of land and a large number of independent producers. (3) There has resulted a practically continuous increase of population, especially marked in the last three decades. The contrast, indeed, between the Evesham tables and those previously considered is altogether remarkable. In 1851 the population of the thirteen villages which comprise the Evesham sub-district was over 1600 less than that of the Kimbolton group. The census of 1911 shows it to be now more than twice as great.
The Evesham case, although exceptional, is by no means unique. Parallel instances of rural areas with a similar type of agricultural organisation and a similar upward movement of population, contrasting with the general decline, can be found outside the specially favoured vales of the Western counties and at considerable distances from the great towns. Other noteworthy examples are the Biggleswade district of Bedfordshire and the Wisbeach district of Cambridgeshire. The latter is typical of the trend of agricultural development in the Fenland, which now not only resembles Holland in its physical conditions, but to a large
extent in its agricultural practice also. The last table on page 177 shows that the population of the Spalding registration district has more than recovered the loss sustained during the height of the agricultural depression, and is now greater than it was in 1851.
It may be permissible to conclude this historical retrospect of the causes and extent of the rural exodus with a brief summary of some of the elements in the present position viewed in relation to the past.
(A) It is clear that some at any rate of the purely economic causes which produced rural depopulation in the first instance are to a large extent played out. The surplus agricultural labour which, for reasons that I have tried to make clear, existed in many of the country districts in the middle of the nineteenth century, has disappeared and has been replaced in many instances by a positive deficiency of suitable workers. During the last twenty years the complaint of the farmers that the younger men of good physique and character leave the villages, even when high wages are offered to them, has 'been general. There is strong evidence not only for the contention that the 'real' wages of agricultural labourers have risen very considerably since the exodus was at its height, but also for the bolder proposition that the average rural worker is to-day fully as well-off as the moderately skilled town artisan. The belief that town employments are almost invariably more remunerative than country employments has outlived the fact. Instances are innumerable of young men migrating to the towns attracted by the prospect of a higher money-wage, only to find that their 'real' wages are less than they could have obtained in the rural districts. from which they came. This confusion between nominal and 'real' wages has probably been a distinctly important factor in the later phases of the exodus.
(B) The present position of English agriculture and the trend of its development seem to indicate the approach of a new régime, widely different from that of the days before the competition of New-World countries, like the United States and the Argentine, and of newly developed countries of the Old World, like Russia, challenged the staple productions of our farms. An agricultural transition has been in progress for forty years, and its ultimate consequences on rural labour may be no less far-reaching than those entailed by the Agrarian Revolution. This transition has been undoubtedly hindered in England by economic and social difficulties, relatively absent in smaller countries like Belgium, Holland, and Denmark, which were similarly affected by foreign competition, but were able to adapt their agricultural system to the new conditions far more quickly. Yet there can be little
doubt that many parts of rural England are tending to develop on the lines indicated by these countries. In other words, the type of agricultural organisation already exhibited by the Evesham and Wisbeach districts is becoming far commoner. Physical as well as economic circumstances will no doubt limit and control its expansion, but it seems certain to become a frequent, if not the dominant, type. If this is so, the prospects of a more numerous and contented peasantry are brighter than is often supposed, for both Continental experience and our own English examples of it prove it to be the best guarantee for rural stability. It is noteworthy, too, that even in districts where the older type of farming is still in the ascendancy, there is a marked tendency towards an increase in the number of agricultural holdings. The latest General Report of the Board of Agriculture (Agricultural Statistics, 1910) contains the following significant summary : The reduction in the number of the larger farms, i.e. those over 300 acres, which has been generally apparent in recent years was again evident in 1910. Within the last twenty-five years no less than 1795 of such holdings have disappeared. . . . The large farm of several hundred acres, which was at one time regarded as furnishing the most characteristic example of British Agriculture, appears to be gradually losing its position, and at the present time little more than 3 per cent. of the agricultural holdings in Great Britain can be so described. . . . The change is, no doubt, mainly attributable to sub-division.' Apart from the increase of the number of small farms and small holdings, the continuous growth of the allotment system is also remarkable. The combined influence of these changes is undoubtedly in the direction of increasing the number of those rural workers whose connexion with the land is not solely dependent on the money-wage, a result which is almost the exact opposite of that produced by the Agrarian Revolution.
(C) Throughout this article I have treated rural depopulation as a phenomenon mainly attributable to economic causes, and I believe that a careful study of the remarkable variations in both the rate and the regional distribution of the decline confirms the view that these have been distinctly more important than social The statistics of the rural exodus certainly do not justify the opinion, frequently expressed, that the specious social attraction of the town for the countryman has been chiefly responsible for it. At the same time, it is certain that the attraction of town
2 I have only attempted to deal with what may perhaps be described as the primary or underlying 'economic causes' of rural depopulation. The lack of proper housing accommodation in so many villages, although a distinct factor in the problem, must, I think, be considered as subordinate to these and, to a large extent, as the result of the depression which they entailed.
life, or, more properly perhaps, discontent with village life, has been a contributory cause of increasing importance, especially since the Education Acts. Are we, therefore, to anticipate that, other things being equal, the increase of educational facilities in the future will be followed by a corresponding decrease in the number of rural workers? Not unless we are prepared to maintain the difficult proposition that education has the inevitable consequence of making men prefer the town to the country. If up to the present time compulsory education has tended to produce this result, it is, I believe, for reasons which are not likely to be permanent. Of these the most material are probably that education in the rural districts, with some splendid exceptions, is still very far from being properly adapted to the environment of those who receive it, and conséquently has not qualified them to appreciate or take full advantage of the opportunities for happiness and self-development which life in the country offers in such full measure; and secondly that it has opened the eyes of the younger generation to the fact that the social organisation of country villages is often deplorably defective. For this the earlier economic changes, analysed at the beginning of this article, are no doubt partly responsible. They had the effect of replacing a society distinguished for its variety, composed of tenant farmers, large and small yeomen, small holders and labourers with an acre or two of land, each class grading into the next, by a society essentially rigid, in which the distinction between the propertied and non-propertied classes was usually very sharply defined, the social gulf between them very deep. The older system was far from ideal, but it had valuable connecting links which made the social life of the villages relatively a good deal more interesting than it became later. Partly, too, the dulness of the villages is due to the fact that so little has been done in them, as compared with the towns, to develop systematically a corporate life in which all can participate.
In the towns the growing bands of social workers complain of the lack of any obvious unit on which to concentrate their efforts. As a unit neither the parish nor the ward is ideal. In the country the units of corporate activity are clear, and it is only the organisation of them that is usually lacking.
That, from a national point of view, social effort, in the broad meaning of the term, is fully as important in the country as it is in the slums of great cities is a truth which is surprisingly little appreciated.
Signs, however, are not wanting that the social needs of the villages are at last beginning to receive recognition. They are to be found not only in the provision of institutes and in the improvement of the social side of parochial organisation, but in