Frontiers of Possession is a bottom-up social and legal history of Spanish-Portuguese territorial disputes. Arguing that traditional nation- and state-centric accounts have obscured the complexity and dynamism of early modern border formation, Herzog focuses more on recovering the forgotten contingencies of the process than on explaining the resulting national boundaries. In both Europe and the Americas, disputed border regions and their communities were constantly reshaped and redefined, not by treaties or battles but by the everyday activities of their inhabitants as they contested the right to exploit their own patches of land. Messy, unpredictable, and often violent, the process of defining and defending private or communal usage rights hinged on effective claims making and drew normative force from political, social, and economic values as well as legal doctrine. The result was a “highly dynamic, open-ended process that involved individuals and groups that...

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