Land Enclosure

How much public land has been stolen from the British people? The short answer is, a lot!

We’re talking to Professor Brett Christophers from Uppsala University about his new book, The New Enclosure: The Appropriation of Public Land in Neoliberal Britain. And it’s a story that we just couldn’t squeeze into one episode, so alas, we’ve given the next two episodes of City Road over to exploring the ideas in the book.

In the first episode we talk about the old enclosure acts of the last few centuries before moving to what Brett calls the new enclosure—or the privatisation of public land in the UK today. In the second episode, Brett draws some connections between the privatisation of public land and addressing the housing problem in the UK. He maps out the winners and losers of The New Enclosure, and here’s a hot tip, if you’re looking to buy or rent a house, you’re unlikely to be a winner.

Here is the book blurb from Verso.

Much has been written about Britain’s trailblazing post-1970s privatisation programme, but the biggest privatisation of them all has until now escaped scrutiny: the privatisation of land. Since Margaret Thatcher took power in 1979, and hidden from the public eye, about 10 per cent of the entire British land mass, including some of its most valuable real estate, has passed from public to private hands. Forest land, defence land, health service land and above all else local authority land—for farming and school sports, for recreation and housing—has been sold off en masse. Why? How? And with what social, economic and political consequences?

The New Enclosure provides the first ever study of this profoundly significant phenomenon, situating it as a centrepiece of neoliberalism in Britain and as a successor programme to the original eighteenth-century enclosures. With more public land still slated for disposal, the book identifies the stakes and asks what, if anything, can and should be done.


Professor Brett Christophers’ research ranges widely across the political and cultural economies of Western capitalism, in historical and contemporary perspectives. Particular interests include money, finance and banking; housing and housing policy; urbanization; markets and pricing; accounting, modelling and other calculative practices; competition and intellectual property law; and the cultural industries and the discourse of “creativity”.

Brett has written many articles and book chapters, including: The Great Leveler: Capitalism and Competition in the Court of Law (Harvard University Press, 2016), which provides a theoretical and historical examination of the relationship between competition and monopoly in capitalism (focusing historically on the development of the US and UK economies from the late nineteenth century to the present-day), and of the role of competition/antitrust and intellectual property laws in mediating that relationship; Banking Across Boundaries: Placing Finance in Capitalism (Wiley-Blackwell, 2013), which explores representations of finance in Western political-economic thought and systems of economic measurement (e.g. national accounting); practices of international banking and their historical evolution; and the relationships between these respective representations and practices; Envisioning Media Power: On Capital and Geographies of Television (Lexington Books, 2009) from his PhD thesis at the University of Auckland and explores the geographical political economy of international television and cognate media products; and Positioning the Missionary: John Booth Good and the Confluence of Cultures in Nineteenth-Century British Columbia (University of British Columbia, 1998), is based on his Master’s thesis at the University of British Columbia and is a study of the missionary axis of British colonialism in Western Canada, drawing on postcolonial and poststructural theory.

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