Nuisance Law and the Industrial Revolution: A Reinterpretation of Doctrine and Institutional Competence

27 Pages Posted: 3 Nov 2012  

Ben Pontin

University of the West of England (UWE)

Date Written: November 2012

Abstract

Contrary to the leading studies of Brenner and McLaren, it is argued that nuisance law was consistently a robust constraint on polluting industrial enterprise during the industrial revolution. The defining nuisances of industrialisation were ‘inter‐neighbourhood’ in character. They affected country estates surrounding industrial seats into which pollutants were displaced by increasingly tall chimneys and long outfalls. The victims of revolutionary nuisance included elite proprietors with unsurpassed capacity to enforce the law. Like Galanterian ‘haves’, who (it is postulated) use the law to reinforce a social advantage, nineteenth century proprietors enforced the common law to protect the ecological fabric of rural life from the threat of polluting corporate enterprise. This is a fundamental challenge to the orthodox view of the common law's complicity with industrial ecological harm in the past, and poses important questions about the prospect of strengthened common law protection of the environment in the modern day.

Keywords: Nuisance law, environmental protection, industrial revolution

Suggested Citation

Pontin, Ben, Nuisance Law and the Industrial Revolution: A Reinterpretation of Doctrine and Institutional Competence (November 2012). The Modern Law Review, Vol. 75, Issue 6, pp. 1010-1036, 2012. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2170235 or http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-2230.2012.00935.x

Ben Pontin (Contact Author)

University of the West of England (UWE) ( email )

Blackberry Hill Bristol
Bristol, Avon BS16 1QY
United Kingdom

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