Special Issue "Historical Commons in Land and Natural Resources"

A special issue of Land (ISSN 2073-445X). This special issue belongs to the section "Land Socio-Economic and Political Issues".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (21 October 2022) | Viewed by 1902

Special Issue Editors

Department of Economics, University of Thessaly, 8333 Volos, Greece
Interests: institutional economics; commons; real estate; urban economics
Prof. Dr. Michel Zouboulakis
E-Mail Website
Co-Guest Editor
Department of Economics, University of Thessaly, Αργοναυτών, Filellinon και, 382 21 Volos, Greece
Interests: methodology; economic theory; economics; history of economic thought; political economy; institutions; economic analysis; economic development; economic history

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Commons are governance structures developed by communities for the management of their common goods (whether tangible or intangible). They can be seen as institutions of collective action that emerge locally, aimed at the sustainable utilization, exploitation and conservation of the common resources, the survival of the community and the well-being of their members. Although various such governance structures have been deployed throughout the course of human history, it was not until recently that scholars from different scientific disciplines (economics, anthropology, sociology, history, law and political sciences) began to pay attention to the issue, developing theories and studying the workings of commons, not least as a consequence of the challenges the world is facing regarding the depletion of natural resources. As such, the vast majority of these studies explore contemporary cases, seeking to pinpoint the elements of success and providing a basis for effective policymaking. Yet, there is much to be learned from studying historical cases (some of which might still be in force) which not only are significant on their own terms, but provide valuable insights into the problems encountered and the solutions devised.  

Research in the social sciences has repeatedly challenged the conventional economics view of the linked collective appropriation of natural resources with impoverishment and the depletion of those resources (the so-called “tragedy of the commons” hypothesis). Collective designs of regulations and practices, together with monitoring and enforcement mechanisms, have been identified as features needed to promote long-standing collective institutions. The emergence and longevity of such regimes in some areas of the world supported the sustainability of collective resources along with local economic development, revealing the workings of a complex process of historical evolution. Yet, despite their ability to offer their users advantages in terms of scale, these institutions were not always exempt from social conflict, nor did they always guarantee a fair or equitable use of resources. Such issues have been well-examined in social sciences without drawing on commons theory, but offering valuable insights for creative reflection and engagement with the commons literature.

This Special Issue seeks to advance our knowledge on historical land commons, i.e., systems of resource management that are self-governing and self-regulating which have been developed in the past. In particular, it places focus on the analysis of past institutions of collective action concerning the governance of land and natural resources, aiming to cast light on the logic of their emergence, the mechanisms and practices of their functioning and the solutions they provided.

Although much attention will be placed on commons, studies of the regulation of other types of self-governing institutions are also encouraged. In general, this Special Issues is aimed at understanding how efficient and effective regulation can be developed, in the context of self-governing, collective institutions of the past, both in rural and urban contexts. In such institutions, rules were designed and put into practice by the stakeholders themselves, inaugurating a new narrative that goes beyond the market–state dichotomy. Many issues, however, still remain underexplored, requiring further attention. In this context, original research articles and reviews are invited, in order to shed light on a range of issues, including:

  • How did stakeholders make sure that the rules and mechanisms they designed remained effective, efficient and sufficiently simple for all to understand and apply? 
  • Were commons institutions designed according to what the local users thought was needed, or were they copied from other examples? 
  • What property rights were developed, how were they distributed and to whom?
  • What were the limits and boundaries of the respected communities, and how open were they to the participation of outsiders and on what terms?
  • Were old rules, mechanisms and practices replaced by entirely new ones, or were they simply adjusted to the new circumstances? 

I look forward to receiving your contributions.

Dr. Paschalis Arvanitidis
Prof. Dr. Michel Zouboulakis
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All submissions that pass pre-check are peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Land is an international peer-reviewed open access monthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 2600 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.


  • historical commons
  • resources
  • institutions
  • local development
  • Ostrom

Published Papers (1 paper)

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Collective Properties of Trentino: From Traditional Competences to Modern Solution Providers
Land 2023, 12(1), 218; https://doi.org/10.3390/land12010218 - 10 Jan 2023
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This paper focuses on the context of the Autonomous Province of Trento in Northern Italy, which has hosted common regime institutions that manage collective mountain properties daily since the 13th century. These institutions operate in the most significant part of the territory and [...] Read more.
This paper focuses on the context of the Autonomous Province of Trento in Northern Italy, which has hosted common regime institutions that manage collective mountain properties daily since the 13th century. These institutions operate in the most significant part of the territory and adapt their routines to emerging challenges. From different scientific perspectives (economic, anthropological, and architectural), we analyzed how this method has been actualized as the most effective management of local resources, generating opportunities for commoners, new citizens, and external users. This includes the exposure of the communities to novel economic activities, adaptation of the internal normative and planning systems, and reflection on how to combine natural resources with local needs and global scenarios. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Historical Commons in Land and Natural Resources)
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