Sunday, December 16, 2018

Free Land in Britain

When I studied American history the influence of the Frederick Jackson Turner Frontier Thesis was waning, but still being considered.  A part of the thesis was the presence of "free land" as a safety valve for workers in urban areas. Then I had a government professor, Theodore Lowi, who divided government functions into regulation, redistribution, and distribution (of goodies). Finally I had a history professor, Paul Gates, who did a lot of work on land issues. 

With that background I've often been interested in such issues; most recently today when I read a review of a biography of Thomas Cromwell in the Times, a review which included the statement that one-third of the land in Britain was taken from the church and redistributed when Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries in a process overseen by Cromwell. That seems incredibly high to me but I don't know.

I wonder about the long-term economic impacts of the distribution--presumably buying and selling of land by monasteries was less common than when the laiety took title.   Herman DeSoto has a theory on the importance of having land titled as paving the way for mortgaging and selling land.

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