Popular Attitudes Towards Rural Customs and Rights in Late Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Century England
Young, Tracey Elizabeth
The central aim of this study is to explore rural attitudes concerning subsistence customary practices, such as gleaning from the harvested fields, catching wild rabbits, birds or fish; gathering wild foods; and collecting wood, furze and gorse. It focuses on the period between 1860 and 1920, when social, economic, political and cultural, changes and transformations, were taking place in rural England. It is a comparative regional study of the Cambridge Fens in Cambridgeshire, the Nene River Valley in Northamptonshire and parts of the Chilterns, mostly situated in Buckinghamshire. Tensions and conflicts concerning customary practices were often expressed through petty and social crime, and these can be viewed in the weekly petty session reports published in local and regional newspapers. These are a reliable and continuous historical source regarding the business of the local courts, which along with school log books, memoirs and diaries, provide insights into the attitudes and opinions of rural populations. The particular significance of this study is that it extends the current historiography and aids our understanding of rural conflict associated with popular culture during this period. The continuation and perpetuation of customary beliefs relied on memory, repetition, negotiation and community tenacity. But ultimately the continuation of asserting such rights, and the shape and form this took, depended on the availability of resources in each region, and individual’s and community’s changing needs and requirements.