ABSTRACT

Arable farming in pre-improvement Scotland was organized around a type of open-field system. In some of its basic features it was similar to the field systems which were found throughout Britain in medieval and later times. A difficulty is that our view of pre-improvement farming has been heavily coloured by the writings of the improvers themselves who condemned it as archaic, inefficient and unchanging. The fragmentation of land within open fields in Scotland is linked to a much misunderstood term: ‘runrig’. Runrig involved the intermixture of land belonging to different cultivators. One feature of pre-improvement farming which can often be seen in the modern landscape, often in upland, marginal areas which have not been ploughed during subsequent periods, is cultivation ridges, or ridge and furrow. In Scotland cultivation limits can be hard to define before the Agricultural Revolution. The most permanent boundary in the landscape was the head dyke which enclosed both the infield and the outfield in many towns.