The New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics

2018 Edition
| Editors: Macmillan Publishers Ltd

Common Rights in Land

  • Leigh Shaw-Taylor
Reference work entry


‘Common rights’ and ‘common land’ refer to rights to use land in common in some way. Of several forms of common rights in pre-industrial Europe and elsewhere, only one – free access to land – involved what economists commonly think of as common rights. Common rights in Europe were largely swept away during the 18th and 19th centuries by a process termed ‘enclosure’. Some economic historians have reconsidered the inefficiency of open fields in an English context, but at present the data are too poor to allow a plausible rebuttal of the views of 18th-century critics of the open fields.


Access to land Common fields Common land Common property resources Common rights Common rights in land Common-pool resources Enclosure Open-access resources Tragedy of the commons 

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© Macmillan Publishers Ltd. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Leigh Shaw-Taylor
    • 1
  1. 1.