In the foregoing chapters we have seen that forms of sharefarming have existed throughout the British Isles from the earliest times, and that in many cases the actual state of land occupancy and tenurial arrangements has been concealed. In all the periods we have looked at, sharefarming agreements remain elusive and are mostly concealed. As we saw in Chapter 9, even with the benefit of modern data, government records and refined statistical techniques, we experience the familiar difficulties of under-recording, ignorance and a lack of understanding of the concept. The principal problem is that the practice in England was never institutionalized, properly defined, or framed in law, unlike the situation in mainland Europe. Until the late twentieth century it remained a custom, moulded by local circumstances, known by different terms and existing in endless variation often as a verbal or gentleman’s agreement. In this way it eluded the attention of manorial stewards, taxmen, lawyers, just as it was meant to. For alongside its lack of legal status, there has been the explicit desire of landowners and farmers to keep such arrangements secret and away from prying eyes. This is as true today as in the medieval period. In our experience if farmers are asked about sharefarming agreements they will more or less tell you to mind your own business; if they do oblige the information is hedged with caveats and the requirement not to divulge names or identify farms.
KeywordsSeventeenth Century Land Tenure British Isle Risk Sharing Medieval Period
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