The New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics

2018 Edition
| Editors: Macmillan Publishers Ltd

Common Land

  • T. Williamson
Reference work entry


The legal status of common land is a source of considerable popular confusion. With the notable exception of some village greens, commons do not represent areas which are owned by nobody, nor areas which are owned by everybody, nor even by everybody within a given locality. Since the early medieval period, commons have been owned by specific individuals, usually the lord of the manor within which they lie. The term ‘common’ refers not to ownership, but to rights held in common by certain people to use the product of the soil of the area in question. In turn, this means that the owner cannot enclose the land; hence the unfenced open space which is still the most characteristic feature of a common (Campbell and Clayden 1980).

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© Macmillan Publishers Ltd. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • T. Williamson
    • 1
  1. 1.