OTD, August 1845, UK Parliament passed an enclosure act, taking away common land, & appointing enclosure commissioners who could enclose more land without submitting a request to Parliament. From the 17th to 20th centuries, the British government passed over 5,000 enclosure acts, enclosing 6.8 million acres of common land, which the public previously had rights to use. Often military force was used to crush anyone who resisted. The enclosures were a vital part of the development of capitalism, as they created a whole class of landless people who had no way of surviving other than selling their labour power – the working class.

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“The law locks up the man or woman
Who steals the goose off the common
But leaves the greater villain loose
Who steals the common from the goose.”

In this majestic tour de force, celebrated historian Peter Linebaugh takes aim at the thieves of land, the polluters of the seas, the ravagers of the forests, the despoilers of rivers, and the removers of mountaintops. Scarcely a society has existed on the face of the earth that has not had commoning at its heart. “Neither the state nor the market,” say the planetary commoners. These essays kindle the embers of memory to ignite our future commons. Available in store and online.

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