Institutional Adaptability and Economic Development: The Property Rights Revolution in Britain, 1700 to 1830
Adaptable property-rights institutions, we argue, foster economic development. The British example illustrates this point. Around 1700, Parliament established a forum where rights to land and resources could be reorganized. This venue enabled landholders and communities to take advantage of economic opportunities that could not be accommodated by the inflexible rights regime inherited from the past. In this essay, historical evidence, archival data, and statistical analysis demonstrate that Parliament increased the number of acts reorganizing property rights in response to increases in the public's demand for such acts. This evidence corroborates a cornerstone of our hypothesis.
We thank Jean-Laurent Rosenthal, Stergios Skaperdas, Linda Cohen, John Wallis, Tim Leunig, Richard Sylla, Mauricio Drelichman, and Joel Mokyr for helpful comments on earlier drafts. We also thank seminar participants at the University of British Columbia, New York University, and Washington Area Economic History Seminar and conference participants at meetings of the Economic History Society, the All-UC Group in Economic History, and the International Economic History Association. We thank Francesca Labordo and Patricia Suzuki for research assistance. We thank the Parliamentary Archives for assistance and advice. We thank the University of California for financial support. The views expressed herein are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Bureau of Economic Research.