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Common Lands in Spain (1800-1995): Persistence, Change and Adaptation

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Type: Conference Paper
Author: Iriarte-Goñi, Iñaki
Conference: Constituting the Commons: Crafting Sustainable Commons in the New Millennium, the Eighth Biennial Conference of the International Association for the Study of Common Property
Location: Bloomington, Indiana, USA
Conf. Date: May 31-June 4
Date: 2000
URI: https://hdl.handle.net/10535/1242
Sector: Land Tenure & Use
Region: Europe
Subject(s): IASC
common pool resources--history
property rights
land tenure and use
Abstract: "In Spain, just as in the rest of Western European countries, economic liberalism and the capitalist production relationships which started to prevail at the beginning of the nineteenth century carried a systematic attack against commons. The result of this attack was the privatization in later dacades of most communal lands surviving in the country at the turn of the eighteenth century. This process has caught the attention of many a researcher and, consequently, there is a generous literature on the subject. However, most historians interested in this particular problem, perhaps impressed by the magnitude this privatization reached in some parts of the country, have overlooked that a substantial quantity of land has kept--and still keeps--its communal character. This fact can be proven by using some figures found on the 'Estadística Agrarian de España de 1998 ' (Agrarian Statistics). At that time and in the country as a whole, a bit over 9% of the land was communal. The matter reveals itself even more interesting if we undertake a regional analysis, for in some regions (particularly in the northern half of the country) communal areas still occupy, nowadays, percentages close to 25% of the surface, and sometimes even higher. "From this basic approach, this paper analyzes the persistence of commons in Spain and its evolution during the nineteenth and the twentieth centuries, studing in depth several complementary aspects: --To measure and classify the marked regional differences in the privatization-persistence of commons and explain their causes. To this end we have resorted to the property rights theory in an attempt to assess its usefulness towards the analysis of the persistence of commons in the case of Spain. --Persistence of commons during these past two centuries, far from representing a feature of immobility, took place along many changes which can be considered at two different levels: --In the first place, the economic role of the common lands (forests, grass and arable lands) was gradually altered in accordance with the transformation of Spanish economy and particularly with the conversion of the agrarian sector. --In the second place, and closely related to the aforementioned, commons management strategies have changed so as to adjust to very different historical contexts. And to this adjusment has contributed not only social conflict but social consensus as well, depending on the case and the juncture. --Upon this basis, this essay analyses the nature of all those changes and suggests a basic chronology, relating them to the economic, social, ecological as well as political transformations this country has undergone during the past two centuries."

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