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Land Rights and the Environment in the Indonesian Archipelago, 800-1950

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Abstract This article has two basic aims. First, I discuss several notions regarding long-term changes in land-tenure arrangements, mainly in what is now Indonesia. I argue that the character of these changes is often badly understood, partly because the older literature has been misrepresented, partly because the older literature was wrong, and partly because many scholars implicitly or explicitly appear to believe in “stages theories” (best known among scholars under the German term Stufentheorie), which posit fairly uniform and unidirectional stages of land-tenure development across the board. Second, this article deals with environmental causes and effects of long-term land-tenure developments in the Indonesian Archipelago. Land tenure and conservation are hotly debated at present, but the historical substance in such debates is meagre, usually going back no further than the 1950s or 60s. Nor does there seem to be much interest in the environmental roots of land-tenure arrangements, perhaps because the participants in the land-tenure-and-the-environment debate are mainly anthropologists and environmentalists, who might find such topics of antiquarian importance only. As an historian I cannot share this view.


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