Thomas Tusser was born in Essex, England, in 1524. Employed as a “singing boy” from a young age, he was educated at Eton and King’s College and Trinity Hall, Cambridge. It seems likely that he also spent time at court. Around 1552, Tusser left court life, married, and began farming. He eventually farmed in Suffolk, Ipswich, Norfolk, and Norwich. Though debt and instability marked his life as a farmer, he is remembered for his contributions to agricultural writing. First published in 1557 as A Hundreth Good Pointes of Husbandrie, Tusser’s long, formally diverse work eventually grew into Five Hundreth Pointes of Good Husbandrie to as many of Good Huswifery (1573). An informational poem, a calendar, and a how-to book, Tusser’s work was widely read by laypeople and nobles alike; it is thought to have been one of the most popular books of poetry during the time of Elizabeth I.
Five Hundreth Pointes of Good Husbandrie was aimed at small farmers and was one of the first defenses of enclosure, a practice that fenced in communal land. Tusser praised such virtues as individualism and thrift. Though his poem was enormously popular in his lifetime and continued to be reprinted through the 19th century, Tusser himself gave up farming later in life; an outbreak of the plague forced him back to Cambridge, and he died in London in 1580.
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