Property rights in conflict: wild berry-picking and the Nordic tradition of allemansrätt

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Wild berries became a valuable export article in Sweden and Finland at the end of the nineteenth century. At the time, property rights over wild berries were not explicitly defined, and in both countries, proposals were made to subject the berries to the landowner. The proposals did not pass and wild berry-picking on another's land continued, as seen from today's perspective, to be available to everyone. This paper looks at the socioeconomic context of wild berry-picking, and asks whether the principle of allemansrätt – a Nordic tradition of public access to nature – played a role in why wild berries did not become private property. By focusing on the Finnish penal code debate of 1888 and the process of stabilising the property rights, the paper rejects the idea of continuity. It argues that (1) the traditional allemansrätt is debatable as a historical concept and shows how (2) the contingent political process created the conditions, and economic imagination the impetus, that wild berries were not privatised but turned into an open resource.

Original languageEnglish
JournalScandinavian Economic History Review
Issue number3
Pages (from-to)266-289
Number of pages24
Publication statusPublished - 13 Sep 2014
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2014 Taylor & Francis.

Fields of Science

  • allemansrätt
  • Finland
  • property rights
  • Sweden
  • wild berries

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