By Esther Pascua Echegaray
International Journal of the Commons, Vol 5, No 2 (2011)
Abstract: This paper examines the case of sheep raising in Aragon from the thirteenth to the seventeenth century to explore the political dynamics and social criteria that rural communities used to manage their common land, and their role in larger economic and political frameworks. In the line of recent historiography about the commons, the research connects the strength of rural communities, institutional arrangements governing access to natural resources, and environmental efficiency. The hypothesis is that the “social reproduction” of the community was the aim that defined the collective action of strong and horizontal communities. They preserved their natural resources and defended large swathes of common land from foreigners. However, when these communities acted in a more complex system of transhumance within the framework of poorly articulated kingdoms, they would tend to predate others’ resources and keep others’ commons open to their free access. The outcome was the existence of large, but very different, and contested, kinds of commons.