Posted: 16 Jan 2012 Last revised: 1 Apr 2015
Date Written: January 16, 2012
During the nineteenth century, the landowner's rights over her own property expanded at the expense of public rights of use. States granted landowners the right to exclude livestock and (often later) people from unimproved land. Many property theorists celebrate the supposed efficiency gains arising from greater owner autonomy. At the same time, broader property rights enable owners to extract economic rents from non-owners. Few empirical studies have examined the transformation from open range to closed range.
This Article examines the closing of the range in the postbellum South using previously unexamined data. Preliminary results suggest that labor control motivated closing the range in Alabama and Mississippi in the 1880s. Counties with larger black populations closed the range earlier and restricted hunting and fishing. These results are consistent with contemporary historical documents that argue a closed range and game laws would deprive blacks of alternatives to sharecropping.
Keywords: right to exclude, open range, closed range, sharecropper, Reconstruction
JEL Classification: J43, K11, N41, N51
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation