Although I can accept the tenor of Wells' interpretation of the development of the rural proletariat, I still feel that he has neglected the social component of that process: the changes in the daily lives of the agricultural labourers that emphasised for them their new condition as a proletariat, as a group separate from their employers. The larger workforces more irregularly employed and more regularly to be found on poor relief, and the decline in the number of living-in servants, made the farmer a more remote figure with whom the men had less day-to-day contact. Farmers were seen to want a different lifestyle from their labourers by banishing them from their tables and farms. The growing segregation between the two classes was further compounded in the latter half of the' eighteenth century by the clearer emergence of 'open' and 'close' parishes. In 'close' parishes the number of labouring families living there was rigidly controlled by landlords and ratepayers so as to limit the number of such families gaining settlements, and hence being eligible for poor relief. Many labourers employed by farmers in the 'close' parish were then forced to live in the neighbouring 'open' parishes [Holderness 1972: 126-39; Samuel 1975; 14-16; Digby 1978: 89-97]. Thus there began to develop in many villages, but in particular in the more populous, 'open' villages, a separate community of labourers all suffering the common experience of exploitation and increasingly antipathetic to their masters. 2

At the same time the processes of social and spatial segregation meant that labourers were increasingly freed from the patriarchal web of control of the farmhouse and the 'close' village [Samuel 1975: 16]. Moreover, with the growth in size of the labouring community, specific institutions centred on the labourer developed, both formally and informally: meeting houses, chapels, pubs, friendly societies and benefit clubs, poaching gangs, football teams, drinking parties. These were complementary to the daily groupings of men that labourers were perforce to take part in: agricultural workteams, and when on poor relief, road gangs, quarrying parties and parish gangs for general farmwork [Peacock 1965: chs. 2 and 3; Hobsbawm and Rude 1973: chs. 3 and 10; Hasbach 1908: ch. 3]. Thus the labourers had the freedom and the opportunities to discuss together their grievances and hence to identify common points of antagonistic interest between themselves and their employers. Contemporaries reached similar conclusions but were more flamboyant in their language. Beershops, for example, were described in 1834 as places 'where the dissolute may meet unperceived', 'with facilities for union and combination', but the attributes could have been just as well ascribed to the labourers' pub or the drinking party at the village shoemaker's in earlier days. Similarly, road gangs were looked on as an opportunity for men to 'corrupt one another' and to listen 'to every bad advice', there being no one 'to look after them'. 3

ndProtestintheEnglishCountryside,1700-1880 control,andwiththenecessarygroupingsofmenformobilisingforcollective action,thattheprotestsoftheagriculturallabourerssprang[Peacock1965: ch.3;HobsbawmandRude1973:chs.9and10;Huze/1976:31].Incontrast, intheearlierpartoftheeighteenthcentury,whenthewebofsocialcontrolin agriculturalvillageswastighterandtherewasnoseparatecommunityof agriculturallabourers,enclosure,asWellsindicates,wentaheadwithlittle clamour[Wells1979:120134].ThequiescenceinagriculturalvillagesishighlightedifoneremembersthatatthesametimethereV"•ereseriousprotests againstenclosure,buttheseoccurredinvillagesthathadsubstantialnumbers ofindustrialworkers,aseparategroupwithasolidarityofinterestandthe strengthtomobilise[Wearmouth1945:ch.1;Neeson1977:ch.7].