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Property rights and their violations - La propriété violée

Expropriations and confiscations, 16 th –20 th Centuries- Expropriations et confiscations, XVI e –XX e siècles

Edited By Luigi Lorenzetti, Michela Barbot and Luca Mocarelli

Interest in the history of ownership rights is growing and spreading to different disciplines. Historians are turning their attention mainly to the rise of private and individual ownership as it was codified in 19 th -century liberal Europe. In writing this history, however, their perspective has too often ignored the other side of the coin, namely the restrictions which the sovereign imposed on such rights, allegedly in the interest of the community.
The papers collected in the present volume suggest that private property is not necessarily the most safeguarded legal model, hence it is not less vulnerable to violation. They construct a close analysis of the most common forms of abuse of private property on record – expropriation, seizure, and confiscation – perpetrated by public authorities. They also seek to define the uneasy, often intricate relation between legal and legitimate. In a perspective of lights and shadows, the role of confiscation and expropriation changes : now seen as powerful instruments of change, now as enduring factors of conservation in the evolution of private ownership rights.
Les droits de propriété sont depuis longtemps au cœur de l’intérêt de diverses disciplines. L’attention des historiens s’est focalisée surtout sur la naissance de la propriété privée et individuelle telle qu’elle a été codifiée dans l’Europe libérale du XIX e siècle. Toutefois, son histoire a trop souvent négligé l’autre face de la médaille, à savoir les limites fixées à ce droit par le souverain au nom de l’intérêt de la collectivité. Les contributions figurant dans ce volume suggèrent que la propriété privée individuelle ne représente pas le modèle juridique le plus apte à la protéger face aux risques d’infraction. Au cœur des analyses il y a les formes historiques de la violation de la propriété privée – expropriations, saisies, confiscations – perpétrées par les autorités et le rapport, souvent complexe et ambigüe, entre les dimensions de la légalité et de la légitimité. Dans un jeu d’ombres et de lumières, les confiscations et les expropriations se dessinent à la fois comme de puissants instruments de changement et de tenaces facteur de conservation dans l’évolution des formes de propriété.


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Introduction – Property and Its Antithesis : Confiscations and Expropriations at the Heart of History - Michela Barbot, Luigi Lorenzetti and Luca Mocarelli 1


Introduction – Property and Its Antithesis : Confiscations and Expropriations at the Heart of History Michela Barbot, Luigi Lorenzetti and Luca Mocarelli Men more quickly forget the death of their father than the loss of their patrimony Niccolò Machiavelli, The Prince, Chap. 17. In recent times the history of the right to property has aroused renewed interest among scholars. In the wake of the frenzy of legal changes introduced by new emerging countries and by the European economies in transition1, historians and social scientists are once again focusing their investigations on the evolu- tion of one of the cornerstones of capitalism and modernity : the right to pri- vate, absolute and exclusive property, as framed in Europe by the 19th century codifications2. The formidable number of studies generated on ownership and property have tended to focus mainly on two main questions : the ways in which private and individual property emerged to the detriment of collective property, a concept which a number of scholars believe to be completely inadequate3, and 1 In particular, we are referring to China or Eastern Europe countries : both of these areas have seen significant changes to their property-rights systems : by way of example see Colombatto Enrico, Macey Johnatan, “Lessons from Transition in Eastern Europe. A Property-Rights Interpretation”, in International Bulletin, vol. I, n. 1 (1997), pp. 23–29, and Oi Jean, Walder Andrew (eds.), Property rights and economic reform in China, Stanford, Stanford University Press, Stanford, 1999. 2 For a thought-provoking reconstruction of the history of property rights from...

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