I have set myself an assignment. I’m going to re-travel William Cobbett’s Rural Rides.
He took this journey in the 1820′s visiting farms around the UK and commenting on the changes brought about by industrialisation, the Enclosures Act and the subsidisation of agriculture through the Corn Laws.
This is all relevant stuff. Mechanisation and rural depopulation have continued pretty well unchecked for the last two hundred years; if anything the pace of change is growing. In my opinion the Common Agricultural Policy is just as damaging as the Corn Laws and for all the same reasons.
The Enclosures Act brought an end to common land and forced land into private ownership. This divided rural society into bosses and workers and created a barrier for new entrants. It set in motion the move towards fewer, larger farms. This is a close parallel to the consolidation of the industry driven by fewer merchants and supermarkets.
I agree with Cobbett’s politics in so many areas. His desire for a free market, more thriving rural businesses, light and honest governance and greater individual liberty and responsibility sits very comfortably with me.
(Hopefully one of our more intelligent readers, Marathon Mike or Roger Shortbread perhaps, will pick up on the fact that I am now arguing for a free market but earlier suggested that we should ban soya imports).
It is a subject worthy of a brighter man than me but I can’t find any evidence of anyone else having done anything similar. The exciting thing about doing it now is that it is so easy to make the journey interactive with photos and videos.
I have made a start by going on Amazon to buy 8 books about Cobbett so that I can plan my route. I will not be travelling by horse.