In the late 18th century, the English jurist William Blackstone famously described property as "that sole and despotic dominion." Over time, this phrase has assumed various and more ambiguous meanings. It is this ambiguity of "property," as well as the tensions evident in property disputes in colonial settings, that forms the central theme of this book.Despotic Dominion examines the evolution of property law in several former British colonies within the broader political, economic, social, and intellectual cultures of those societies. It draws from litigation and political action related to Aboriginal title and other disputes over property rights in several former settled colonies of the Empire, most notably Australia and North America. The contributors consider how the land was perceived by indigenous peoples, colonial officials, and settlers; how these groups viewed their relationship with the land; and how local interests conflicted with one another and with centralizing notions of law and justice.This book brings together a variety of perspectives to provide a comprehensive analysis of the important issue of property rights, which continues to animate the body politic of Australia and Canada in particular. As such, it will be of interest to students and scholars of colonial history, property theory, indigenous studies, and law, as well as to judges, lawyers, and the inquisitive general reader.
John McLaren is Lansdowne Professor of Law at the University of Victoria. A.R. Buck is Senior Lecturer in Law and Editor of the Australian Journal of Legal History at Macquarie University. Nancy E. Wright is Director of the Centre for the Interdisciplinary Study of Property Rights at the University of Newcastle.
Acknowledgments 1 Property Rights in the Colonial Imagination and Experience / John McLaren, A.R. Buck and Nancy E. Wright 2 Encountering the Spirit in the Land: "Property" in a Kinship-based Legal Order / Richard Overstall 3 Paper Empires: The Legal Basis of French and English Ventures in North America / Brian Slattery 4 Concepts of Economic Improvement and the Social Construction of Property Rights: Highlights from the English-speaking World / John C. Weaver 5 Warm Reception in a Cold Climate: English Property Law and the Suppression of the Canadian Legal Identity / Bruce Ziff 6 Land Law, Liberalism, and the Agrarian Ideal: British North America, 1750-1920 / Philip Girard 7 When Private Rights Become Public Wrongs: Property and the State in Prince Edward Island in the 1830s / Rusty Bitterman and Margaret McCallum 8 "This Remnant of Feudalism": Primogeniture and Political Culture in Colonial New South Wales, with Some Canadian Comparisons / A.R. Buck 9 "The Lady Vanishes": Women and Property Rights in Nineteenth-Century New South Wales / Nancy E. Wright 10 The Establishment and Preservation of Hutterite Communalism in North America: 1870-1925 / Alvin J. Esau 11 The Failed Experiments: The Demise of Doukhobor Systems of Communal Property Land Holding in Saskatchewan and British Columbia, 1899-1999 / John McLaren 12 Co-existence and Colonization on Pastoral Leaseholds in South Australia, 1851-99 / Robert Foster 13 Indian Reserves, Aboriginal Fisheries, and the Public Right to Fish in British Columbia, 1876-82 / Douglas Harris Afterword / John McLaren, A.R. Buck, and Nancy E. Wright Index