Enclosures and The Making of the Modern World

The Making of the Modern World - Lecture 3

Lecturer: Prof Imogen Tyler, University of Lancaster

May 27, 2021

It has long been argued that the enclosure of land in England facilitated the agricultural and industrial revolutions that transformed Britain into a modern capitalist state. Yet the connections between land enclosures within England and the English-led colonial enclosures that were taking place at the same time have been less explored. This session examines connections between the enclosure of land and people within England and within the colonial world (from the 16th century). In contrast to nation-bound understandings of English capitalist modernity, which focus on land enclosures, the Industrial revolution, and the formation of a new class society within England, this session is concerned with English colonial enclosures on a global scale, and with understanding Britain as an Imperial State, whose multiracial class society was forged through Empire.

Keywords. Enclosure, Agrarian Revolution, Industrial Revolution, Slavery, Indenture, Waged Labour, Colonialism, Capitalism, Plantation, Factory


  • Baptist, Edward. 2014. The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism. New York: Basic Books.
  • Bhambra, Gurminder. 202. ‘Colonial global economy: towards a theoretical reorientation of political economy’, Review of International Political Economy, 28:2, 307-322
  • Federici, Silvia. 2004. Caliban and The Witch: Women, The Body and Primitive Accumulation. United States: Autonomedia
  • Hayes, Nick, 2020, The Book of Trespass: Crossing the Lines that Divide Us. London, Bloomsbury.
  • Johnson, Walter, 2004, ‘The Pedestal and the Veil: Rethinking the Capitalism/Slavery Question’ Journal of the Early Republic, 24, 2, pp. 299-308
  • Linebaugh, Peter, 2014. Stop, Thief! : The Commons, Enclosures, And Resistance. PM Press
  • Polanyi, Karl. 2001. The Great Transformation: The Political and Economic Origins of Our Time. Boston, MA: Beacon Press.
  • Thompson, Edward Palmer. 1963. The Making of the English Working Class. New York: Vintage.
  • Robinson, Cedric J. 2000. Black Marxism: The Making of the Black Radical Tradition. Chapel Hill, N.C: University North Carolina Press.
  • Shilliam, Robbie. 2018. Race and the Undeserving Poor: From Abolition to Brexit. Newcastle UK: Agenda Publishing.
  • Tyler, Imogen. 2020. Stigma: the Machinery of Inequality, London: Zed. [Open Access extract ‘Colonise at home!’ Paupers, Serfs, Slaves and the making of the English State’]
  • Virdee Satnam. ‘Racialized capitalism: An account of its contested origins and consolidation’ The Sociological Review. 2019;67(1):3-27.
  • Williams, Eric, 1944, Capitalism and Slavery, Chapel Hill: N.C: University North Carolina Press.


A Short History of Enclosure in Britain.

National Archives Enclosure Maps:

Right to Roam Campaign.

Casualties of History podcast from Jacobin magazine focusing on EP Thompson’s The Making of the English Working Class.

Slavery and its Legacies Podcast.

The 1619 Project podcasts – The Economy That Slavery Built.


  • What are enclosures?
  • What is the relationship between enclosures of land and people within England and within English Colonies, that are taking place at the same time?
  • Why is the global colonial history of enclosures important for understanding the making of the Modern World?