Evolution of property rights and land ownership in Britain?
April 23, 2013 1:46 PM   Subscribe

What are the 'broad strokes' of how property rights and land ownership in Britain evolved from the days when the king giveth and the king taketh away, to the system we know today? What were the significant turning points along the way? Were those turning points accompanied (or, perhaps, triggered) by other, broader-based social changes? Particularly focused on Scotland during 18th and early 19th centuries. Bonus points for source material in books or podcasts.
posted by John Borrowman to Law & Government (6 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Basically, all land that anybody owns in Britain today, they own until they die, or until the end of human life on this planet, whichever comes first. If there is no heir, ownership of said land reverts to the Crown.

Broadly, the most significant event since feudalism was enclosure. You may find the work of John Clare informative on this subject. There is more in this PDF.
posted by tel3path at 1:56 PM on April 23, 2013

This is perhaps overly specific and/or modern for your purposes, but the Guardian's George Monbiot published an article recently, Political Barbed Wire, about waterway access rights or the lack thereof where the public is concerned. It also touches on more general statistics concerning land ownership in Britain and wildlife and mineral rights.
posted by Short Attention Sp at 2:42 PM on April 23, 2013

The book Barbarism to Verdict by Justin Flemming is a really great read and discusses this, and other origins of common law in the UK.
posted by Kerasia at 3:43 PM on April 23, 2013

Here are links to 3 .pdfs from the Caledonia Centre for Social Development on

- The History of Common Land in Scotland

- Crofters' Common Grazing and

- Common Land in Scotland : A Brief Overview

They are, of course, written from a specific perspective.
posted by essexjan at 4:35 PM on April 23, 2013

I read (most of) "The Making of the English Countryside", which goes into this a lot.
posted by zvs at 5:30 PM on April 23, 2013

The history of property rights in Britain is huge, a subfields in its own right (not least because English/British law has so influenced American law).

But the best book I have read about the changing property relations in highland Scotland is From Chiefs to Landlords.
posted by jb at 7:29 AM on April 24, 2013

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