gavelkind


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Related to gavelkind: Ultimogeniture

gavelkind

an obsolete form of landholding in England.

GAVELKIND. Given to all the kindred, or the hold or tenure of a family, not the kind of tenure. Eng. law. A tenure or custom annexed or belonging to land in Kent, by which the lands of the father are equally divided among all his sons, or the land of the brother among all his brothers, if he have no issue of his own. Litt. s. 210.

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While some generalizations about Irish society in the pre-Famine decades hold true such as its dependence on the potato, others such as increased female fertility and early marriages to explain the demographic growth, and the role of gavelkind inheritance in the declining fortunes of Catholic landholders, do not.
One wonders, though, whether the ideological valence of dividing the land is so clearly defined: early modern critics of primogeniture lauded the ancient Kentish custom of Gavelkind land tenure (partible inheritance), and engrossing of estates was a key strategy of "improvement.
In Kent, with gavelkind tenure, men were free to sell or otherwise alienate their land and it was shared among all male heirs on the death of a tenant.