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field system

  The fields and other agricultural lands of a community considered as a functioning whole. Field systems vary in several ways, including the character of land tenure, the sets of rules through which agricultural activities are coordinated, and the physical disposition of landholdings. Particular importance attaches to the relative importance of individual control, and of social coordination, in land ownership, use rights, and agricultural decision-making. Many traditional societies have been dominated by complex cooperative systems of rights over both arable land (in \'open field\' systems in which the holdings of individuals were scattered) and pasture, and have been much altered by enclosure which redefined field systems in more individualistic terms. The rise of political economy approaches in human geography has helped to focus attention on field systems as spatial expressions of social power relations.

For historical and contemporary geographers, important debates surround at least five questions about: (1) the origins of different types of field systems, and their connection with familial, social, and territorial forms; (2) their development trajectories, and the extent to which they were flexible and able to evolve, or inflexible and resistant to non-revolutionary change (Allen, 1992); (3) how field systems functioned as channels of social control over agricultural production; (4) the relationship between different types of field system and processes and rates of agricultural change; and (5) connections between field systems and rural standards of living and poverty (Neeson, 1993). (PDG)

References Allen, R.C. 1992: Enclosure and the yeoman. Oxford: Clarendon Press; Neeson, J. 1993. Commoners: common rights, enclosure and social change in England, 1700-1820. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.



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