Destroying the Commons: The Evolution of the Enclosure Movement in Spain before the 'Bourgeois Revolution'

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"The surface of common lands in Spain considerably decreased in the 'Ancien Régime'. Its evolution was extraordinarily diverse, but the privatising and enclosure of common property, the last phase of this process, frequently took place before the pass of property rights lands laws during the 'Bourgeois Revolution' in the19th C. However, in spite of the great interest with which Spanish agrarian historians have examined in the last decades the questions related to the modernization of agrarian structures, the role of enclosure in this process has been scarcely researched. As a matter of fact, the informal and improvised nature of enclosure in many areas of Southern Europe, may explain the limited number of academic work on this topic. On the other hand, the dominant trend in these analysis seems to be precisely the very diversity of a country with marked differences in its agrarian structures. The difficult adaptation of those types of enclosures to the classic model was not helpful in order to define this phenomenon either. That initial disadvantage could be considered today as an advantage, especially if we take into account the criticism to the rigidity of the traditional English model, and the variety of situations that researchers, outside and inside Great Britain, are pointing out. It is in this theoretical context that our essay revises the research done during the last 30 years in Spain and points our some lines of analysis, which can be classified in three groups of questions: 1. The formation of enclosure. Some basic questions have to be posed such as: what socioeconomic, political or environmental factors have an impact in its formation? What kind of enclosure is practiced and what are the causes of those variations? Or, moreover, when does enclosure take place? 2. Social and economic consequences of enclosure. We not only need to know the social costs and the different strategies of resistance devised to confront it, but also if the enclosure process promoted the rise of a class of active landowners that became the key players in agrarian change. And, for that reason, we need to know what was the role of enclosure in the change of agrarian structures. Besides their economic and social effects, enclosure had an impact on the environment and on a way of managing the community resources which has currently become an interesting topic for researches. 3. The intense debate on enclosure also questions the very definition of land property rights. The most recent research in Spain evidences the need to revise with new investigations the concept of full and absolute property, supposedly a legacy of the bourgeois revolutions."



IASC, land tenure and use--history, enclosure--history, agriculture--history, social networks--history, institutional change--history, property rights--history