The Economic Effects of the English Parliamentary Enclosures
We use a dataset of the entire population of English Parliamentary enclosure acts between 1750 and 1830 to provide the first causal evidence of their impact. Exploiting a feature of the Parliamentary process that produced such legislation as a source of exogenous variation, we show that Parliamentary enclosures were associated with significantly higher crop yields, but also higher land inequality. Our results are in line with a literature going back to Arthur Young and Karl Marx on the effects of Parliamentary enclosure on productivity and inequality. They do not support the argument that informal systems of governance or “private orderings”, even in small, cohesive, and stable communities, were able to efficiently allocate commonly used and governed resources.
We would like to thank Daron Acemoglu, Robert Allen, Joshua Angrist, Mattia Bertazzini, Rui Pedro Esteves, Steven Pincus and seminar participants at the Bonn/Cologne Workshop on Markets and Policy in History, briq Institute, Chapman University, Clermont-Ferrand, Göttingen, the NBER DAE Spring 2021 meeting, Northwestern, NYU, Oslo, UBC, and the University of Chicago for helpful comments. We would like to thank Ann-Charline Weber and Parker Whitfill for providing outstanding assistance and feedback. Thanks are also due to Lauren Futter, Thiviya Kumaran, Daniel Lowery, Amol Pai and Meghana Nuthanapathi for their valuable research assistance. The views expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Bureau of Economic Research.