Today’s word is disafforest. It’s going to take some background to explain that one. I’m reading The Story of England by Christopher Hibbert. The forest laws were part of the feudal system that William the Conqueror imposed,
extending the boundaries of the royal forests which included tens of thousands of acres of land, by no means all wooded, over which the King and his friends could hunt deer. To preserve this pleasure for himself William I had poachers blinded and mutilated, and even those who gathered sticks on royal land were savagely punished.
He created a royal game preserve called New Forest in Hampshire that was over 90,000 acres, demolishing entire villages in the process. All of Essex was subject to the forest laws as well as large tracts of land in other areas — nearly a third of all of England. Rich and poor alike detested these laws.
The barons gave guarded support to Stephen, Count of Blois, as a successor to William the Conqueror’s son rather than have the crown pass to Matilda because “they considered her far too autocratic and masterful for a woman.” But they were soon disillusioned, in part because of “his failure to abide by an oath to disafforest various royal lands.”
With enough context, the meaning becomes clear. Here’s how the Oxford English Dictionary states it:
To free from the operation of the forest laws; to reduce from the legal state of forest to that of ordinary land.
Wondrous Words Wednesday is hosted by Bermudaonion’s Weblog. Kathy says: “Wondrous Words Wednesday is a weekly meme where we share new (to us) words that we’ve encountered in our reading.”