A History of Water Rights at Common Law

A History of Water Rights at Common Law

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Water resources were central to England's precocious economic development in the thirteenth and sixteenth centuries, and then again in the industrial, transport, and urban revolutions of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Each of these periods saw a great deal of legal conflict over water rights, often between domestic, agricultural, and manufacturing interests competing for access to flowing water. From 1750 the common-law courts developed a large
but unstable body of legal doctrine, specifying strong property rights in flowing water attached to riparian possession, and also limited rights to surface and underground waters.

The new water doctrines were built from older concepts of common goods and the natural rights of ownership, deriving from Roman and Civilian law, together with the English sources of Bracton and Blackstone. Water law is one of the most Romanesque parts of English law, demonstrating the extent to which Common and Civilian law have commingled. Water law stands as a refutation of the still-common belief that English and European law parted ways irreversibly in the twelfth century. Getzler also
describes the economic as well as the legal history of water use from early times, and examines the classical problem of the relationship between law and economic development. He suggests that water law was shaped both by the impact of technological innovations and by economic ideology, but above all by
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Product details

  • Paperback | 448 pages
  • 156 x 233 x 25mm | 621g
  • Oxford, United Kingdom
  • English
  • Revised ed.
  • 0199207607
  • 9780199207602
  • 1,004,138

Table of contents

Preface ; Acknowledgements ; Abbreviations ; Table of Cases ; Table of Legislation ; Regnal Years ; Introduction ; 1. The Exploitation of Water in Historical Perspective ; 2. Servitude Doctrine in Early Law ; 3. The Common Law of Riparian Rights 1580-1700 ; 4. Blackstone and Hale's Doctrines of Land and Water Use ; 5. Appropriation Theory in the Courts ; 6. The Modern Origins of the Riparian Doctrine ; Conclusion ; Bibliography ; Index
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Review quote

...to read Getzler's book as a legal historian was a humbling experience. The research is exhaustive and meticulously executed, and the resulting analysis is clearly and articulately communicated... Through the medium of a study of water rights, Getzler has articulated a masterful and illuminating account of the development of the common law as a whole.' * Charlotte Smith, Journal of Environmental Law * ...Packed into a single volume, Joshua Getzler provides a comprehensive history of the English common law of water...A History of Water Rights at Common Law stands as the definitive treatment of his subject; there are no competitors in the same league with respect to sophistication or attention to detail... * James Charles Smith, Law and History Review * No stone has been left unturned in order accurately to assess this development [of water rights]. ... A History of Water Rights at Common Law stands as a significant achievement in the career of its author. * Christian Witting, Modern Law Review * ... the first comprehensive study of the history of English water law...a lucid account...[Getzler] seems equally at home in the medieval period... as with the later developments circa 1580-1750, or with the development of the modern law in the nineteenth century. The depth of learning is just as impressive as its scope, with copious references provided throughout. * Jonathan Morgan, Journal of Legal History * With the appearance of Joshua Getzler's exhaustive treatment of the history of water rights at common law, at last there is a law book to match the importance of its subject. ... a substantial intellectual feast. * Michael Taggart, Legal Studies * Some historical studies are so carefully done that they describe their subject definitively. Other scholars may question why the events occurred as they did, but they will not challenge how these events are described. In this sense, Getzler's book is the definitive study of water rights at common law. ... Getzler's work will bring the reader as close as any study could to what happened, and to what was in the minds of those who made it happen. * James Gordley, Law Quarterly Review *
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About Joshua Getzler

Joshua Getzler is a Fellow and Tutor in Law at St Hugh's College, Oxford.
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