Common Land Books and Articles by Project Members


‘Contested Common Land: Environmental Governance Past and Present’

Book cover, 'Contested Common Land'

By C. P. Rodgers, E. A. Straughton, A. J. L. Winchester and M. Pieraccini
Newcastle Law School, Lancaster History Department, and Exeter Law School

Publisher: Earthscan, London,
ISBN: 9781849710947
Publication date: 2011

This new book draws on the Contested Common Land team’s research findings, following three years of intensive research. It explores legal, cultural and environmental aspects of common land governance in England and Wales since 1600. To order a copy and read recommendations by Professor Elinor Ostrom (Nobel Prize for Economic Sciences 2009) and Professor Stephen Daniels (Director, AHRC Landscape and Environment Programme), visit the Earthscan page: Contested Common Land at Earthscan.

Elinor Ostrom recommends ‘Contested Common Land’:

‘Chris Rodgers and his co-authors have brought together important research…They show that “modernizing” common law institutions that evolved over time can change ownership rights and duties in unexpected ways. For sustainability questions we have to study more systems over time as this important collection of studies illustrates.’
(Elinor Ostrom, Indiana University, USA, and joint Winner of the Nobel Prize for Economic Sciences 2009)


A pioneering study of the history of common land management since 1800


‘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’

Book cover, 'Common Grazing in the Northern English Uplands'

By Eleanor A. Straughton
Lancaster University History Department

Foreword by Professor Christopher P. Rodgers, Newcastle Law School

The Edwin Mellen Press
Lampeter, 2008
ISBN10: 0-7734-4954-X ISBN13: 978-0-7734-4954-1

This new study explores the governance and management of the culturally important landscapes of common land in northern England from two complementary perspectives – national policy and local practice. Attitudes towards common lands and upland landscapes changed dramatically across the nineteenth and twentieth centuries; from parliamentary enclosure to preservation in the nineteenth century; the rise of non-agrarian interests in common land in the twentieth century, including conservation, rural preservation and access lobbies; and the desire to solve ‘the problem of common land’ in the decades after the Second World War. The second part of the book turns to the local sphere, exploring commons management and governance in Cumbria – an area still dominated by common land. The book looks at how traditional management institutions were maintained, altered or abandoned in the modern period, and at how new institutions were created in the wake of the manor courts’ collapse.

“…manages to be scholarly and demanding while presenting an accessible and compelling account of a period for which much of the commons vanish from the historical view.” Prof. Alun Howkins, University of Sussex

“…a work that will interest not only historians but those seeking modern solutions to the problem of how to engage communities in local democracy and management plans.” Prof. T. Christopher Smout, St. Andrews University

For more information or to order a copy of this book, please visit the publisher’s website at: The Edwin Mellen Press.

‘The Harvest of the Hills’: a study of the management of common land by the manorial courts before 1700


‘The Harvest of the Hills: Rural Life in Northern England and the Scottish Borders, 1400-1700’

Book cover, 'The Harvest of the Hills'

By Angus J. L. Winchester
Lancaster University History Department

Edinburgh University Press
Edinburgh, 2000
ISBN 1 85331 239 8
ISBN 9781853312397

This illustrated environmental history of rural life in Northern England and the Scottish Borders in the late medieval and early modern periods explores the relationship between society and the environment – the ways in which humans responded to and used the environment in which they lived. The book uses the orders and byelaws made by manorial courts to build up a picture of how pastoral society in the Pennine, Lake District and Border hills husbanded the resources of the uplands. It offers an upland, pastoral paradigm of land use, the management of common land, and the transition from medieval to early-modern farming systems to balance the extensive literature on the agrarian history of the lowlands.

‘…a superbly documented, searching study that will surely become a classic…a landmark in guiding us to understand the history of pastoral England.’ Dr Joan Thirsk, Economic History Review

For more information or to order a copy of this book, please visit the publisher’s website at: Edinburgh University Press.

New and Recent Articles by Project Members


  • Rodgers, C.P. December 2009. ‘Property rights, land use and the rural environment: A case for reform’. Land Use Policy, Volume 26, Supplement 1, S134-SS141.
  • Winchester, A. J. L. and E. A. Straughton, 2010. ‘Stints and sustainability: managing stock levels on common land in England, c.1600-2006’, Agricultural History Review, Vol 58, Pt 1, pp.30-48.
  • Pieraccini, M. 2008. ‘La sostenibilit√† delle common lands: (sotto)sviluppo storico dei meccanismi di governance’. Archivio Scialoja-Bolla: Annali di Studi sulla Propriet√† Colletiva 1.
  • Pieraccini, M. Forthcoming. ‘A Comparative legal and historical study of the common lands in Italy and in England and Wales’. Instituzioni, Agricoltura e Mercati.

Leave a Comment