This land is my land: A Global and Comparative History of Regulation of Agricultural Land c. 1789-1913

Nya Fest Session 5: There ain’t no mountain high enough, ain’t no valley low enough: Ownership, redistribution, and extraction of natural resources, 1800-2000 organized by Kasper Hage Stjern


Pål Thonstad Sandvik, Pål Thonstad Sandvik


Land use has been regulated since the dawn of civilization. Land was the key resource in premodern and preindustrial societies. Land policy, land use and land ownership varied greatly across geographical, political, and ethnic boundaries. This paper provides the first global overview of land policy during the long 19th century. Some main lines of development can be identified: States (and colonies) introduced increasingly formal and legalistic systems for land rights. Landed property increasingly became a commodity which more freely could be bought and sold on the market. The acreage of tilled land was expanded, often with state support, and often at the expense of nomadic and/or indigenous peoples. (The US Homestead Act of 1862 and The Canadian Homestead Act of 1872 were just two examples of a broader global phenomenon.) The increasing commoditization of land was accompanied by a parallel, and in many cases related, development, namely the gradual dismantling of property rights in human beings (corvée, serfdom and slavery). However, it should be noted that the extent and speed of these developments varied greatly, not just between different continents, but sometimes also within a given country. The paper will also examine the main aims of state policy, namely increased agricultural output and the creation of a stable rural tax base, to secure the interests of privileged ethnic groups, and in some cases to reduce economic inequality.


No PDF available.