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Faculty of Economics

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Beltran, Tapia, F.J.

Social and environmental filters to market incentives: the persistence of common land in nineteenth-century Spain

Journal of Agrarian Change


Abstract: The regional diversity of communal persistence in nineteenth-century Spain has been well documented by historiographers. Although the explanation of this divergence has been attributed to the social and environmental context, together with the prevailing market incentives, that characterized the different rural societies of this period, there has been no clear assessment of the role played by each of these factors.Through a comparative study of the historical data at the provincial level, this paper analyses the relative contribution of these elements to that divergence. The results diminish the significance of market signals and show how the social and environmental conditions interacted to limit, or promote, the dismantling of the common lands. Apart from the greater need to resort to the commons when it was necessary to increase agricultural production in dry regions, this paper highlights the role of unequal levels of access to land in promoting enclosure. The Spanish case illustrates the limitations of the theories that predict the inevitable drift towards individual property rights.

Keywords: Spain, nineteenth century, common lands, privatization, socio-ecological context

Author links: Francisco Beltran  

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