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Owning the Earth: The Transforming History of Land Ownershipby Andro Linklater
Synopses & Reviews
Barely two centuries ago, most of the world's productive land still belonged either communally to traditional societies or to the higher powers of monarch or church. But that pattern, and the ways of life that went with it, were consigned to history by the most creative and simultaneously destructive cultural force in the modern era: the idea of individual, exclusive ownership of land.
Spreading from both shores of the north Atlantic, it laid waste to traditional communal civilizations, displacing entire peoples from their homelands, and brought into being a unique concept of individual freedom and a distinct form of representative government. By contrast, as Linklater demonstrates, other great civilizations, in Russia, China, and the Islamic world, evolved very different structures of land ownership and thus very different forms of government and social responsibility. The history and evolution of this concept is a fascinating chapter in the history of civilization, offering unexpected insights about how various forms of democracy and capitalism developed, as well as a revealing analysis of a future where the Earth must sustain nine billion lives. Owning the Earth presents a radically new view of mankind's place on the planet and the history behind it.
"In this masterly work, Linklater (Measuring America) views modern history through the lens of land ownership, considering a variety of modes that includes private ownership, ownership by the state or its ruler, and the communalism found in many traditional societies. While he concentrates on the United States and other major economies, his geographic scope also touches on all continent with arable land, with examples from countries as diverse as Borneo and Sweden. Linklater begins his history in the 1500s, when the idea first appeared that common men might own a piece of land, and extends through recent economic upheavals to the present day. His intellectual range is as wide as his geographic or temporal range, spanning from Hobbes to Greenspan and including philosophers, politicians, religious figures, and academics; an extensive notes section and bibliography allow readers to further pursue his source ideas. For Linklater, private property is paradoxical because 'although it promotes individuality, it only works by giving equal weight to the public interest.' By focusing on land ownership, the emphasis in historical interpretation shifts from economics to politics, giving a much different perspective. This reinterpretation of global history will give readers of history, politics, and economics much to think about. Agent: Peter Robinson; Rogers, Coleridge, & White (U.K.)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
From the author of the acclaimed Measuring America, a dazzling chronicle about how the ability to own the land we inhabit has shaped modern society.
About the Author
Andro Linklater was the acclaimed author of Measuring America, The Fabric of America, An Artist in Treason, and Why Spencer Perceval Had to Die. He died in 2013.
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