2.3 Further reading

You may find it helpful to consult some of the key studies of common land, either to provide a wider context to the particular common you are studying or to help you to understand specific aspects of its history.  The following is merely a selection of key works.

A good starting point is provided by the report which came out of the Royal Commission on Common Land 1955-1958:

Hoskins, W. G. and Stamp, L. D. (1963) The Common Lands of England and Wales, London: Collins

The law and modern issues surrounding common land are laid out and discussed in:

Cousins, E. and Honey, R. (2012), Gadsden on Commons and Greens (2nd edition), London: Sweet and Maxwell [the standard work of reference, replacing the earlier edition: Gadsden G. D., The Law of Commons (1988)]

Kruse, John (2011), Common Land: a guide to active usage and exercising your rights, Preston: The Good Life Press [a brief, popular introduction]

Clayden, P. (2003) Our common land: the law and history of common land and village greens, Henley-on-Thames, Open Spaces Society

For an overview of contemporary common land issues, background information and practical advice, you may find Natural England’s ‘Common Land Toolkit (NE 285)’ helpful.  This is freely available to download from the Natural England Website:


For the history of common land in general, see:

Everitt, A. (2000) ‘Common land’, in J. Thirsk (ed.), The English Rural Landscape, Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 210-35

Bowden, M., Brown, G. and Smith, N. (2009) An Archaeology of Town Commons in England: ‘A very fair field indeed’, Swindon: English Heritage

The importance of common land in lowland England as a resource, particularly for the poor, before it was swept away by enclosure is vividly brought to light in:

Neeson, J. M. (1993) Commoners: common right, enclosure and social change in England, 1700-1820, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

For the regulation and management of common land in the past, the key studies include:

Rodgers, C. P., Straughton, E. A., Winchester, A. J. L. and Pieraccini, M. (2010) Contested Common Land: Environmental Governance, past and present, London: Earthscan [charts the history of common land since c.1600 and includes case studies of four commons in Cumbria, North Yorkshire, mid-Wales and Norfolk]

Straughton, E. (2008) Common Grazing in the Northern English Uplands, 1800-1965: A history of national policy and local practice with special attention to the case of Cumbria, Lampeter & Lewiston: Edwin Mellen

Winchester, A. J. L. (2000) The Harvest of the Hills: rural life in northern England and the Scottish Borders, 1400-1700, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press [a study of the governance of common land by manor courts]


You will also find comprehensive bibliographies of published work relating to the history of common land and commons governance on our Research Resources page.

(Text by A.J.L. Winchester and E.A. Straughton)