Becoming private property: custom, law, and the geographies of ‘ownership’ in 18th- and 19th-century England

Carl Griffin

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    10 Citations (Scopus)


    The making private of hitherto public goods is a central tenet of neoliberalism. From land in Africa, Asia, and South America to the assertion of property rights over genes and cells by corporations, the process(es) of making private property matters more than ever. And yet, despite this importance, we know remarkably little about the spatial plays through which things become private property. In this paper I seek to address this imbalance by focusing upon the formative context of 18th- and early-19th-century England. The specific lens is wood, that most critical of all ‘natural’ things other than land in the transition to market-driven economies. It is shown that the interplay between custom, law, and local practices rendered stable and aspatial definitions of property impossible. Whilst law was the key technology through which property was mediated, the cadence of particular places gave these mediations distinctive forms. I conclude that not only must we take property seriously, but we must also take the conditions and contexts of its making seriously too.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)747-762
    Number of pages16
    JournalEnvironment and Planning A
    Volume42 (3)
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - 2010

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Environmental Science (miscellaneous)
    • Geography, Planning and Development


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