Professor of Economic History
The University of Hull, Hull, UK.
I am uncovering the history of the end of yeoman tenure in England wherein the yeoman was defined as the copyholder. These were tenants who held property from manorial lords on ancient and antiquated rents but who entered the tenancies by paying large lump sum payments known as entry fines. They had an inalienable right to enter the properties whether by inheritance or through the property market. In the 1840s legislation was passed to enfranchise those properties, that is for the copyholders to buy out the freehold interests from manorial lords, or to put it another way, for the manorial lords to sell the manorial rights to the copyholders. But it was not a popular option for the copyholder and therefore was a long drawn out process. Even when some compulsory elements were introduced in the 1850s it remained a long drawn out process.
Copyhold was finally abolished at midnight on the 31 December 1925 through the Law of Property Act of 1922, but there continued a process of extinguishment (as distinct from enfranchisement) of the manorial rights on those properties that thus far had not been enfranchised. Theoretically this should have been completed by midnight of 31 December 1935, but remnants of the process continued into the 1950s. The project aims to measure the amount of copyhold enfranchised after 1840 because it has become evident that base tenure of this nature was more prevalent than historians have ever realised. A parallel process of private enfranchisements/extinguishments also took place, the extent of which may never be known, but which itself was not trivial.
Favorite Historical Figure
Very difficult to answer this. I am tempted to say William Wilberforce but I know that the anti-slavery movement was not one person but many, and as much it was the outcome of self-emancipation. So perhaps it would be better to say that slave emancipation and the figures involved are my favourites. But if a living person can also be an historical figure then I would say Emeritus Archbishop Desmond Tutu is a favourite. I have met him twice in connection with my Wilberforce work, he is the Patron of our Institute and his work in the world of truth and reconciliation, whether in South Africa or in Northern Ireland, or in other areas of social conflict, is much to be admired.
Favorite Agricultural/Rural Movie
I would have to say the Cossack novels of the River Don region by Nobel Laureate Mikhail Sholokhov which project that sense of Don Cossack socio-rural culture - And Quiet Flows the Don, The Don Flows Home to the Sea, Virgin Soli Upturned and Harvest on the Don.