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Anything but common: why Van Diemen’s Land never had commons
journal contributionposted on 2023-05-21, 07:30 authored by Imogen WegmanImogen Wegman
It is sometimes assumed that the concept of the ‘commons’ was transposed directly from Britain to the Australian colonies, and that the term is interchangeable with ‘Crown land’ to describe lands not yet claimed by European settlers. This paper compares British commons with those introduced in the earliest years of the New South Wales and Van Diemen’s Land colonies, and asks why the latter failed to reserve land specifically for common grazing in its first thirty years. By comparing these two colonies, it becomes clear that each was driven by different environmental factors and priorities. Moreover, it shows that British commons and Crown lands in Australia were only comparable in a very shallow sense. This piece argues that calling unalienated acres claimed by the Crown in Australia ‘commons’ perpetuates the dispossession of Indigenous peoples from their lands by applying a framework founded in a thousand years of British common law and precedent.
Publication titleLandscape History
Department/SchoolSchool of Humanities
Place of publicationUnited Kingdom
Rights statementCopyright 2022 Society for Landscape Studies