The Theft of the Commons is one of those times in history when many of us think, “wish we could’ve stopped that”. It was an episode marking out capitalism as an emerging force. Along with the many other side effects, homelessness and the first vagrancy laws came about. Many people tried to find new, creative ways to live independently of the manor.
While this was happening, the Roma were beginning to be a visible group on the British Isles. They had lived for some time on the continent, fleeing persecution consecutively from Punjab, to Eastern Europe, to Western Europe.
Some former peasants found the Roma way of life a possible alternative in difficult times and modelled themselves after this nomadic self-sufficiency. Laws were placed on the books alongside the Vagrancy Acts to outlaw those who followed a gypsy way of life. Death was the punishment. But many people from what is now the UK and Ireland continued to follow this pattern and have now become a recognised separate ethnic group – the Travellers.
Fast forwarding, we find ourselves now watching Traveller site after Traveller site being evicted. Watching families go through that day of losing their plot on a site, being thrown out onto the road with nowhere stop and sleep, parents with sorrow in their faces as they look upon their children – that’s a painful sight. After giving into the pressure to stop travelling, Traveller groups put money together and bought land to live on. This is what they were expressly told to do by the government. Yet, after doing that, they were then told – “you can’t live here”