138 pages | 14 B/W Illus.
Is inclusiveness in the commons and sustainability a paradox? Late medieval and Early Modern rural societies encountered challenges because of growing population pressure, urbanisation and commercialisation. While some regions went along this path and commercialised and intensified production, others sailed a different course, maintaining communal property and managing resources via common pool resource institutions. To prevent overexploitation and free riding, it was generally believed that strong formalised institutions, strict access regimes and restricted use rights were essential.
By looking at the late medieval Campine area, a sandy, infertile and fragile region, dominated by communal property and located at the core of the densely populated and commercialised Low Countries, it has become clear that sustainability, economic success and inclusiveness can be compatible. Because of a balanced distribution of power between smallholders and elites, strong property claims, a predominance of long-term agricultural strategies and the vitality of informal institutions and conflict resolution mechanisms, the Campine peasant communities were able to avert ecological distress while maintaining a positive economic climate.
1. The Dominance of Exclusive Commons: An Exploration and Re-evaluation
2. The Campine: An Overview
3. Inclusive Commons
4. Successful Commons: What’s in a Name?
5. The Road to Success
We like to forget that agriculture is one of the core human activities. In historic societies most people lived in the countryside: a high, if falling proportion of the population were engaged in the production and processing of foodstuffs. The possession of land was a key form of wealth: it brought not only income from tenants but prestige, access to a rural lifestyle and often political power. Nor could government ever be disinterested in the countryside, whether to maintain urban food supply, as a source of taxation, or to maintain social peace. Increasingly it managed every aspect of the countryside. Agriculture itself and the social relations within the countryside were in constant flux as farmers reacted to new or changing opportunities, and landlords sought to maintain or increase their incomes. Moreover, urban attitudes to - and representation of - the landscape and its inhabitants were constantly shifting.
These questions of competition and change, production, power and perception are the primary themes of the series. It looks at change and competition in the countryside: social relations within it and between urban and rural societies. The series offers a forum for the publication of the best work on all of these issues, straddling the economic, social and cultural, concentrating on the rural history of Britain and Ireland, Europe and its colonial empires, and North America over the past millennium.