The Open Fields of England describes the open-field system of agriculture that operated in Medieval England before the establishment of present-day farms surrounded by hedges or walls. The Open Fields of England encompasses a wide range of primary data not previously assembled, to which are added the results of new research based upon a fifty-year study of open-field remains and their related documents. The whole of England is examined, describing eight different kinds of field-system that have been identified, and relating them to their associated land-use and settlement. Details of field structure are explained, such as the demesne, the lord's land, and the tenants' holdings, as well as tenurial arrangements and farming methods.
Previous explanations of open-field origins and possible antecedents to medieval fields are discussed. Various types of archaeological and historical evidence relating to Saxon-period settlements and fields are presented, followed by the development of a new theory to explain the lay-out and planned nature of many field systems found in the central belt of England.
Of particular interest is the Gazetteer, which is organized by historic counties. Each county has a summary of its fields, including tabulated data and sources for future research, touching on the demesne, yardland size, work-service, assarts, and physical remains of ridge and furrow. The Gazetteer acts as a national hand-list of field systems, opening the subject up to further research and essential to scholars of medieval agriculture.
Preface and acknowledgements
Introduction: medieval fields and the landscape
1. Townships and land-use
2. Field system types; the extensive fields of the Central Region
3. Field system types in the Eastern and Western Regions
4. Open-field structure and management
5. Early evidence for settlement and fields
6. Open field beginnings
Appendix: County Gazetteer
David Hall studied chemistry at St Peter's College, Oxford, but has worked in the field of archaeology for over fifty years. He has published extensively on British archeology and the history of field-systems.
"a major publication [which] provides an enormous amount of data and interpretation"
– Debby Banham, Speculum
"The Open Fields of England provides an extremely important framework for understanding a vital part of English landscape history and will inform scholars for years to come. In addition it provides a much-needed introduction for students and teachers unfamiliar with the open fields [and] certainly provides many interesting avenues for further work"
– Ronan O'Donnell, Landscape History
"Hall works from the great strength of his own [...] original research in the field and landscape"
– Peter Fowler, The Antiquaries Journal
"indispensable for anyone researching the agricultural practices and social structures of medieval rural England"
– S. Jay Lemanski, The Medieval Review