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Anything but common: why Van Diemen’s Land never had commons


Wegman, I, Anything but common: why Van Diemen's Land never had commons, Landscape History, 43, (1) pp. 87-104. ISSN 0143-3768 (2022) [Refereed Article]

Copyright Statement

Copyright 2022 Society for Landscape Studies

DOI: doi:10.1080/01433768.2022.2064640


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.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:history, van diemen's land, commons
Research Division:History, Heritage and Archaeology
Research Group:Historical studies
Research Field:Australian history
Objective Division:Expanding Knowledge
Objective Group:Expanding knowledge
Objective Field:Expanding knowledge in history, heritage and archaeology
UTAS Author:Wegman, I (Dr Imogen Wegman)
ID Code:149967
Year Published:2022
Deposited By:Office of the School of Humanities
Deposited On:2022-05-04
Last Modified:2022-09-13

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