I have shown on this blog that long-abandoned myths about the enclosure movement in England have been exploded for more than 40 years. This is in response to Chris Ferrara’s laundry list of conventional claims about English enclosures, in his book on the Church and libertarianism. Instead of admitting what is obvious to everyone, namely that he had not known anything about modern scholarship on the subject, he is now reduced to: “But why are the past fifty years of scholarship on the enclosures more reliable than the past two centuries of scholarship?” Ouch.
That pretty much sums up the state of the debate, such as it is, but I wonder why Ferrara does not apply the same standard to other areas of historical inquiry — e.g., when modern historians of science began, in the 1950s, crediting the Church with having played a much more salutary role in the Scientific Revolution than had previously been realized, why did Ferrara not demand to know why we should credit this more recent research over the work of the past 200 years?
Then Ferrara pretends I am relying on “a single book by a single scholar, G.E. Mingay.” Translation: despite having weighed in on the historical controversy over enclosures, Ferrara had never heard of Mingay. This would be like trying to assess war guilt in World War I without (like it or not) at least coming to grips with the work of Fritz Fischer.
And in fact my work on this subject relies not just on Mingay’s seminal Enclosure and the Small Farmer in the Age of the Industrial Revolution (1968) but also on his 1997 book Parliamentary Enclosure in England — not to mention the important contributions of F.M.L. Thompson and J.R. Wordie.
When you are writing a work of propaganda, you do not mention that debates exist. That would make the world less cartoonish, and cartoons are what works of propaganda are all about. When you are embarrassed into admitting that a debate exists, you then pretend you knew about it all along, but that it wasn’t worth mentioning.
Most propagandists are ignored. Most do not have a Tony Flood who will critique their work with painstaking detail. There is a new book, self-published, by a left-Keynesian (it’s bad for consumers to stop spending during recessions!) that repeats the same nonsense we read in Ferrara, but that left-Keynesian won’t need a Tony Flood. The refutation of Ferrara is quite sufficient.