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Land Reform

  • By: Tony Weis
  • In: Encyclopedia of Geography
  • Edited by: Barney Warf
  • Subject:General Geography, Earth & Environmental Science

Land reform entails the redistribution of private or public lands. Though it is often broadly associated with struggles for social justice, land reform is a somewhat amorphous term, embracing a huge range of practices and historical experiences in how land is identified and transferred (by force, legislation, or markets), the accompanying institutional and legal changes, and the ensuing property relations. Though many industrialized countries have highly unequal distributions of land, land reform is typically discussed in the context of the developing world.

Colonial Antecedents

The challenges and struggles associated with land reform have extensive historical roots in the colonial period. For the rural poor in developing countries, two of the most debilitating legacies of European colonialism were the establishment of uneven landscapes and commodity export–dependent economies, which ...

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