J L Hammond, a working history

J L Hammond and Barbara Hammond are two of the greatest historians you’ve probably never heard of.  In the early years of the twentieth century, they were commissioned by the British Labor Research Department to investigate the social and economic impacts of enclosure, displacement, and attempts to organize labor (combinations), up to the Reform Bill of 1832

Practically, their work discusses the effects of the Enclosure Acts, the systematic disruption of  English village life by taking of common land by the aristocracy.  Enabled in large part by the Glorious Revolution of 1688, enclosure became an instrument of massive land theft by the titled classes, legitimized by Parliament.  Through the penal laws and the practice of transportation, plantations in the American colonies were provided with cheap labor.


The Concentration of Power, the controversial first chapter of The Village Labourer, was only printed in the first edition of the book.

“…differs from previous editions…the original Chapter One has been omitted:  this chapter described the concentration of power in the hands of a small class…”

The middle chapter of The Town Labourer, The Mind of the Rich delves into the self serving impulses and rationalizations of the wealthy.

[Particularly worth reading for Hammond’s take on Adam Smith…probably the most misinterpreted economist in history (invisible hand and other Friedmanesque nonsense).]

The Conclusion to The Skilled Labourer addresses the ideological conflict between the capitalist elites and the working classes.

In their terror of the French Revolution they treated the sovereign hope that has inspired its best minds throughout the long pilgrimage of the race as an overwhelming illusion:  in their confidence in the unchecked rule of capital they made law, order, and justice the sentinels of a new and more terrible inequality between man and man.  The life of a society in which violence so deliberate as this is done to the instincts and passions of mankind turns inevitably into civil war.


We have been following Daisy’s education on Downton Abbey, the gradual progress of a Labor government in the years after WWI, and I have to wonder, has Daisy been reading the Hammonds?


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About michaellangford2012

Timber framer, boatbuilder, dreamer, writer, musician; collector of books, tools, aphorisms. "There is nothing, absolutely nothing…half so much worth doing…as simply messing about in boats."
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3 Responses to J L Hammond, a working history

  1. Reblogged this on Paleotool's Weblog and commented:
    An excellent post. I have come across this somewhere before, I think through Tom Hodgkins’ Idler essays. Anyway, another important, but nearly lost, part of our history and how we surrender so willingly to authority.

  2. I put together this timeline history-of-common (it’s an early post, can’t link to it here) for my own perspective when I was reading about enclosure. The beginnings of capitalism, plantations, slavery, enclosure all start there in the early 1700’s. Please let me know if there’s any problem with the links.

  3. Pingback: J L Hammond, a working history | Paleotool's Weblog

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