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Simon Winchester


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Land is a human history of land around the world: who mapped it, owned it, stole it, cared for it, fought for it and gave it back. In 1889, thousands of hopeful people raced southward from the Kansas state line and westward from the Arkansas boundary to stake claims on the thousands of acres of unclaimed pastures and meadows. During the twentieth century, water was dammed and drained in Holland so that a new province, Flevoland, rose up, unchartered, raising the question of who owned it. In 1850, California legislated the aquisition of land from Native Americans, which in effect stole the land from these tribal guardians. Skip to 2019 and an apology from the governor, but as of yet there has been no mention of reparations or return. What of government confiscation of land in India? Or the questions of treaty negotiations between the Government and Maori when it comes to New Zealand's legacy of land purchases? Land which was acquired from Maori by settlers using dubious methods with the aid of the Governments of the time?

The ownership of land has always been complicated, opaque, and more than a little anarchic when viewed from the outside. In this book, Simon Winchester explores the the stewardship of land, the ways it is delineated and changes hands, the great disputes, and the questions of restoration – particularly in the light of climate change and colonialist reparation.

A global study, this is an exquisite exploration of what the ownership of land might really mean – not in dry-as-dust legal terms, but for the people who live on it.


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