Disappearance of common land

Other Names:
Privatization of common land
Enclosure of the commons
Lost shared land
Overriding of rights to common property
Expropriation of common land by private landlords
Vanishing public land
Limited public land
Scarcity of corporate land

When common land is privatized it passes into the hands of people whose priority is to profit from it, often by selecting the most profitable product and limiting the use of the land to the production of it. This is to be contrasted with use by traditional rural communities of such land to supply most of their needs (fuel, food, housing, medicine, fabrics). They were therefore forced to maintain a variety of habitats in which a wide range of species could flourish.


Common land has been disappearing at a very high rate in all countries and this process has accelerated since the 1970s. Developers, whether private or governmental, have sought means to remove land from commoners and allocate it to people they felt could manage it better. Throughout the world commoners have then been encouraged to work for those whose property the land became or to move to towns. In Brazil, for example, peasant communities are evicted from the land to make way for agro-industry. Where previously the land had supported thousands, it then becomes the exclusive property of a single combine or family. In Africa and other regions with nomadic populations, enclosure has dramatically effected what used to be a sustainable lifestyle.

From 1945 to 1993 in the UK 30% of rough grazing disappeared with 90% of meadow land, 50% of lowland woodlands, heaths and fens, together with 140,000 miles of hedgerow. Since 1963 80 commons had been deregistered. Since 1980 local authorities there were no longer required to provide "equally advantageous land" when they took over open space for development.

Related UN Sustainable Development Goals:
GOAL 10: Reduced InequalityGOAL 11: Sustainable Cities and CommunitiesGOAL 12: Responsible Consumption and ProductionGOAL 15: Life on Land
Problem Type:
D: Detailed problems
Date of last update
10.03.2022 – 04:39 CET