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Property and Commons: The tangible and the intangible

Jones, Henry; Gerrard, Chris


Chris Gerrard


Nicole Graham

Margaret Davies

Lee Godden


In this chapter we review the commons in law and in practice in a British context, taking the long historical perspective. We set the scene with some modern legal definitions, then explore what ancient common land meant in practice. The commons is a property regime, but survives from a fundamentally different relationship with land to that of legal modernity. Before enclosure and the converting of common land to private property, land was not understood conceptually as a form of property. Land was a resource, which many people could have different rights over without conflict. Land can sustain many different uses, some continuously, some irregularly, some for only a fixed season or period of time. Legal modernity has thinned out the content of the legal commons, but the idea of the commons remains a powerful challenge to how we own and use land.


Jones, H., & Gerrard, C. (2023). Property and Commons: The tangible and the intangible. In N. Graham, M. Davies, & L. Godden (Eds.), The Routledge Handbook of Property, Law and Society (349-361). Routledge.

Online Publication Date Nov 14, 2022
Publication Date 2023
Deposit Date Oct 12, 2022
Publicly Available Date May 15, 2024
Publisher Routledge
Pages 349-361
Edition 1st ed.
Book Title The Routledge Handbook of Property, Law and Society
Chapter Number 29
Public URL
Contract Date Aug 31, 2022


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