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A Comparative Legal and Historical Study of the Commons in Italy and England and Wales


  • Margherita Pieraccini


A Comparative Legal and Historical Study of the Commons in Italy and England and Wales - Margherita Pieraccini Historically, common land occupied a central role in the agrarian and cultural economies of Europe. Although the governance of the commons shaped by different regimes of property rights was heterogeneous, it is possible to uncover a common ground in the widespread centrality assigned to customs. Today, common land is not an anachronistic relict but remains an interesting area of study given its revitalisation in national policies and laws. This article presents a study of comparative law between English and Welsh common land and Italian commons, focussing on the similar historical transformation they experienced. In fact, the predominance of agrarian practices and local customs of the past has been erased by the nationalisation of the commons in both countries. In Italy, this nationalisation should be attributed to the levelling philosophy of the 1766/1927 law, in England and Wales to the Commons Registration Act 1965 and Commons Act 2006. If contemporary political and legislative discourses portray the commons as examples of environmental sustainability and communitarian governance, in reality this position is more a product of a political adhesion to the recent discursive orthodoxy centred on the community than a genuine legislative attempt to confer responsibility and autonomy to the principal stakeholders of the commons. From a theoretical point of view the article follows the institutionalist approach, nonetheless criticising its holistic understanding of the concepts of community and locality. Key words: common land, governance, customs, sustainability, England and Wales, Italy.

Suggested Citation

  • Margherita Pieraccini, 2008. "A Comparative Legal and Historical Study of the Commons in Italy and England and Wales," AGRICOLTURA ISTITUZIONI MERCATI, FrancoAngeli Editore, vol. 2008(1), pages 85-118.
  • Handle: RePEc:fan:aimaim:v:html10.3280/aim2008-001007

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    Cited by:

    1. Paolo Tedeschi, 2011. "Common Land in Eastern Lombardy during the Nineteenth Century," Historia Agraria. Revista de Agricultura e Historia Rural, Sociedad EspaƱola de Historia Agraria, issue 55, pages 75-100, december.

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