Page:Cambridge Modern History Volume 1.djvu/560

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page needs to be proofread.

while it also desired so far as possible to merge them with the existing population, and to use them as means for the technical education of Englishmen. In this Cecil, who personally revised the regulations for settling the aliens, was singularly successful; though the Dutch and Walloon colonies were separately organised for social and religious purposes, they soon came to be highly appreciated by their neighbours as an important factor in the economic welfare of the country. Spain had suffered seriously by imposing disabilities on-aliens, and England gained immensely by encouraging their immigration and absorbing them as an integral part of the nation.

The improvement of industry had a very favourable reaction on the progress of agriculture. At the beginning of Elizabeth's reign the condition of rural life was eminently unsatisfactory; an increasing area was being diverted from tillage to pasture-farming; the wool which was produced in such large quantities, and the cloth into which it was manufactured, fetched very high prices; this export-trade was undoubtedly the channel through which a portion of the treasure from the New World began to flow into England. Beneficial as this development was in many ways, it yet entailed serious grievances in rural districts. The price of corn was relatively low, and there seemed to be a danger that the food-supply would fall short. Measures were devised for giving the farmer the best opportunity for selling his corn in any part of the country, and not unfrequently for exporting it on easy terms. Great pains were also taken to ensure that he should have an adequate supply of labour, and to encourage those particular forms of industry which were subsidiary to agricultural operations. In no other country of Europe were the interests of agriculture put so prominently forward. English statesmen realised that it was necessary to render tillage profitable if it was to be properly maintained, and progress in the industrial arts was treated as a subordinate consideration. As the demands of the industrial population for food increased, and as the improving marine of England gave access to markets abroad, those who were pursuing agriculture as a trade found that they could work at a profit. The revival of agriculture, moreover, was possible without a serious diminution of the area which was devoted to sheep. The conflict between the two rural interests in England was not so keen as in Spain. By the introduction of convertible husbandry, a better return could be obtained from the same acreage. The old common fields were broken up; land was occupied in severalty; and each farmer was free to pursue his avocation to the best of his ability and means. By this new method the land enjoyed long periods of rest, and the soil recovered from the exhausting effects of the persistent, though slovenly, tillage to which it had long been subjected. Enclosure and readjustment afforded the opportunity of greatly increasing the production from the land, without additional expenditure of capital.