Sharefarming Comes to Light: Early Modern Evidence

  • Elizabeth Griffiths
  • Mark Overton


Much more evidence of sharefarming comes to light in the early modern period. Although, as we have seen, sharefarming was not exclusively a seventeenth-century phenomenon, there were clearly reasons why sharefarming becomes more visible during this period, and why it may have been more prevalent. New evidence is partly associated with improved documentation of all kinds and better government administration. For example, by the sixteenth century, reneging on a farming to halves agreement in parts of Wales had become a criminal offence, punishable in a court of law. Suggett found scores of cases in legal records in Radnorshire, indicating that the practice in this region was so widespread that it needed to be institutionalized and framed in law.1 In England, from the 1550s, probate inventories record the goods and chattels of deceased persons who sometimes left ‘moieties’ of crops and livestock, with references to ‘the partible way’, ‘halfendeale’ agreements and animals ‘at half crease’ (types A, B and E in our taxonomy).2 From the early seventeenth-century estate records also began to improve significantly, as landowners, responding to the price rise of the late sixteenth century, sought to modernize the management of their estates. At a lower social level, greater literacy played a part, as yeomen and minor gentry began to keep diaries and account books, showing a concern for profit and loss and an awareness of the new possibilities.


Seventeenth Century Sixteenth Century Dairy Herd Shared Ownership Catch Crop 
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Copyright information

© Elizabeth Madeleine Griffiths and Mark Overton 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Elizabeth Griffiths
    • 1
  • Mark Overton
    • 1
  1. 1.University of ExeterUK

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