Cultural History of Property

Project by Prof. Dr. Julia Angster

This research project is studying the emergence and impact of the idea of private property in 19th century Britain. The notion of private property, especially of individual freehold tenure, began to replace communal forms of property at about 1800. It is a core concept of modern economic, legal and political order. Private property as a legal concept is a form of symbolic meaning, linking the individual with society as a whole, defining relations between things, people and institutions, and translating perceptions of common weal and private interest into legal settings. In 19th century Europe, this legal concept played a crucial part in the emergence of the modern nation state and its modes of governance.

Sub-Project: Almuth Ebke, "Britishness - Concepts of Nation and Society in Britain, 1960s - 2000s"

This PhD project analyses how images of British society were negotiated in the public sphere, in politics and amongst academic circles from the late 1960s to the early 2000s. While taking the historiographical and political debates about Britishness of the 1990s and 2000s as a starting point, the focus of analysis will be the debates from the 1960s onwards in which models of British society were specifically adressed. The thesis rests upon the premise that developments as diverse as Scottish and Welsh nationalism, postcolonial migration and changes in the structure of employment and industry undermined the then dominant models of society: while they had been predominantly based on categories of class, the 1980s witnessed the rise of the concept of 'identity'. The Britishness-debate of the 1990s and 2000s may thus be understood as the culmination point of a thirty-year long process in which the dominant self-image of Britain was challenged and negotiated.