Call for Papers: Common People, Common Rules. Institutions and Self-Governance in Historical Perspective

RHN 1/2014

30-31 October 2014, Public University of Navarre, Department of Economy, Campus Arrosadia Pamplona-Iruñea, Spain

Deadline: 25 March 2014

Common People, Common Rules.
Institutions and Self-Governance in Historical Perspective

Collective ownership and resource management is currently an important research topic among historians, anthropologists, legal experts, economists, sociologists and political scientists, not least as a consequence of the challenges the world is facing regarding the management of natural resources. During our two-day workshop we will be focussing on institutions for collective action, that are self-governing and self-regulating in historical perspective.

At the workshop much attention will be given to the historical analysis of common land regimes, which has witnessed a clear shift in focus from the study of the abolition of commons towards the analysis of the internal logic of their functioning. By doing so, historians have engaged increasingly in interdisciplinary debates on the sustainability of institutions and have applied methods and approaches from other disciplines to evaluate the functioning of institutions for collective action in the past. Research in the past decade has repeatedly challenged the traditional view that linked collective use and management of resources with the impoverishment and 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 drive and vitality of communal customs in some regions and their compatibility with economic growth reveals a complex process of historical change. Despite their ability to offer their users advantages in terms of scale, these institutions were not exempt from social conflict nor did they always guarantee a sustainable use of resources. Such issues have been well-studied in other social sciences, and can offer a source of inspiration for historical research.

Although much attention will be going to commons, the workshop also aims at attracting studies of the regulation of other types of self-governing institutions. In general, we aim at understanding how efficient and effective regulation can be developed, in a context of self-governing, collective institutions, both in rural and urban contexts. In such institutions, rules were designed and put into practice by the stakeholders themselves. Many questions however still remain unanswered:

  • How did stakeholders make sure that the body of rules they designed remained effective, efficient and sufficiently simple for all to understand and apply?
  • Were old rules replaced by entirely new ones, or were they simply adjusted to the new circumstances?
  • Were rules always designed according to what the local users thought was needed, or were rules copied from other examples in the vicinity?
  • How did rule-makers ensure that sanctions were avoided as much as possible?
  • What level of sanctioning was sufficient to scare off potential free-riders?

These and related questions will be at the core of the meeting.

The organizers encourage in particular submissions that introduce new historical source material and novel ways of using historical sources, inspired by other social sciences. The organizers welcome in particular quantitative and long-term studies, that are also able to connect historical developments to contemporary debates surrounding the management of commons. All abstracts and papers should be submitted and presented in English.

Abstracts of paper should be submitted by 25 March 2014; the final papers are due by 15 October 2014. Travel and accommodation expenses of the (principal) authors of the papers selected for inclusion in the workshop will be reimbursed. A selection of the best papers will be considered for publication as part of a special issue for a relevant peer-reviewed English-language journal in the field.

Organizing Committee:
Josemiguel Lana (Public University of Navarra)
Tine De Moor (Utrect University)
Angus Winchester (Lancaster University)
Iñaki Iriarti-Goñi (University of Zaragoza)
Miguel Laborda Pemán (Utrecht University)

Josemiguel Lana (Public University of Navarra),

Related research projects:

  • NWO Internationalisation Grant Project "Common Rules". The regulation of institutions for managing commons in Europe, 1100 - 1800
  • DGICyT Research project HAR2012-30732 Cooperation, Conflicts, and Equilibria in Natural Resource Management (15th-21th Centuries)

Supported by

  • Public University of Navarre (UPNA-NUP)
  • Navarrese Institute for Economic and Social History ‘Gerónimo de Uztariz’