UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Agricultural rent in the early Victorian era Peplow, Stephen


This thesis concerns the economic and political relationship between the English tenant farmer, his landowner, and his Member of Parliament during the period between 1830 and 1865. Profound social and economic changes took place in agriculture during this time, notably the enfranchisement of the tenant farmer (1832), the Repeal of the Corn Laws (1846), and the development of the railways from 1832 onwards. The tenant farmer was an important actor in all three changes, but his role has been overlooked. This thesis brings him into focus in three chapters, each dealing with the tenant-farmer within the rural economy. Chapter 1 introduces the research project, makes a clear statement of the goals of the research, and reviews some of the recent literature. Chapter 2 deals with the ways in which agricultural rents were set in the 1830s and estimates agricultural rents from two centuries ago, using observations for nearly six hundred parishes in the southwest of England. The finding is that rents were set closely with Ricardian Rent Theory. Chapter 3 measures the impact on agricultural rents of railway development. The railways were laid from 1832 onwards, and farmers used the railways to take their stock to market. This saved large amounts of money, primarily from reduced loss of condition compared to droving to market. The social savings were approximately 1.1 per cent of GDP, a considerable sum. The chapter shows that about one fifth of the wealth transfer resulted from cheaper transportation, while the other four-fifths resulted from productivity gains as farmers rearranged their output to take advantage of the railways. Chapter 4 measures the impact of the agricultural interest on the voting decisions of Member of Parliament during the Corn Laws crisis in 1846. This chapter shows that tenant farmers had a small but measureable influence on voting decisions.

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