cover image Owning the Earth: 
The Transforming History of Land Ownership

Owning the Earth: The Transforming History of Land Ownership

Andro Linklater. Bloomsbury, $30 (496) ISBN 978-1-62040-289-4

In this masterly work, Linklater (Measuring America) views modern history through the lens of land ownership, considering a variety of modes that includes private ownership, ownership by the state or its ruler, and the communalism found in many traditional societies. While he concentrates on the United States and other major economies, his geographic scope also touches on all continent with arable land, with examples from countries as diverse as Borneo and Sweden. Linklater begins his history in the 1500s, when the idea first appeared that common men might own a piece of land, and extends through recent economic upheavals to the present day. His intellectual range is as wide as his geographic or temporal range, spanning from Hobbes to Greenspan and including philosophers, politicians, religious figures, and academics; an extensive notes section and bibliography allow readers to further pursue his source ideas. For Linklater, private property is paradoxical because “although it promotes individuality, it only works by giving equal weight to the public interest.” By focusing on land ownership, the emphasis in historical interpretation shifts from economics to politics, giving a much different perspective. This reinterpretation of global history will give readers of history, politics, and economics much to think about. Agent: Peter Robinson; Rogers, Coleridge, & White (U.K.) (Nov.)