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The Evolution of Resource Property Rights$
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Anthony Scott

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9780198286035

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2008

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198286035.001.0001

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Free Mining from Medieval Europe to the Gold Rushes

Free Mining from Medieval Europe to the Gold Rushes

(p.208) 6 Free Mining from Medieval Europe to the Gold Rushes
The Evolution of Resource Property Rights

Anthony Scott

Oxford University Press

The chapter begins by describing ‘free mining’ in Europe from the Dark Ages to the nineteenth century. The free miner was ‘free’ from most feudal obligations, ‘free’ to explore by roaming his lord's estates, and ‘free’ to form communities making rules governing exploring and mining. Many free mining communities, such as Cornwall's, worked their territory for generations. The chapter stresses that free-mining communities provided noble landlords with mineralization information. The chapter then describes the rise of miner-controlled institutions after the California Gold Rush of 1849-50. The miners tried partnerships but soon joined in rule-making camps. Like their free-miner predecessors they issued claim-like rights to individual discoverers, weaving in the characteristics of property: exclusivity, quality of title, transferability, and duration. Such camps, having many similarities to the European free-mining communities, spread beyond California. Their rules were applied by governments for all mining on public lands (and, in Australia, on private lands).

Keywords:   California camps, duration, work collectivism, Gold Rush, rule-making camps, exclusivity, quality of title, transferability

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