The association among commons, rights, and freedom has been central to the radical historiographical tradition. This article investigates the origins and limitations of this association. First, it examines the evolution of the association among the three concepts, identifying the important role played by the seventeenth-century English Diggers. The article then examines the intersection of radical commons discourse with colonialism, drawing on the histories of commons in nineteenth-century Australia. This history locates the colonial resonances of Digger concepts, but also their limitations in the colonial context. Contradictorily, as subaltern as white Australian commoners were, the very effectiveness of their commoning activities contributed to the dispossession of indigenous commoners. The article argues for a more nuanced understanding of commons and enclosure in their intersection with colonialism and points out that the important historical preconditions for such a reconceptualization were in any case established by the seventeenth-century Diggers.
Ben Maddison; Radical Commons Discourse and the Challenges of Colonialism. Radical History Review 1 October 2010; 2010 (108): 29–48. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/01636545-2010-002
Download citation file: