Property pp 38-76 | Cite as

On the ‘History’ of Property

  • Andrew Reeve
Part of the Issues in Political Theory book series (IPT)


This chapter is concerned with the ‘history’ of property, and links the conceptual issues addressed in Chapter 2 with the themes of later discussions. The need for such a link arises because anyone concerned with the history of property needs to explain what it is, while any particular history of property will suggest connections between property and aspects of social life like the division of labour and political liberty. We shall be concerned, in this chapter, with problems which arise from the recognition that property is not invariable. There are three major problems of this kind. First, since ‘property’ may refer to both material resources and legal relations, to ideas and to concrete arrangements, how are these to be brought together in the historical account? Secondly, if property can take various forms, or be embodied in different property-systems, what general characteristics does it have? Finally, how have arguments about the history of property been conceived to affect the legitimacy of particular property institutions? It will be seen that these problems straddle the conceptual issues and the themes identified.


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© Andrew Reeve 1986

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  • Andrew Reeve

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