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Scientific survey and land settlement in British colonialism, with particular reference to land tenure reform in the Middle East 1920–50

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Land surveying is part of the global transmission of technical and specialist knowledge by European colonialism, and land registration and cadastral surveying have been boosted by Hernando de Soto's thesis that land registration offers a potential solution to world poverty and social unrest. This article investigates the dissemination of scientific survey methods across the British empire in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and the role of the Empire Surveyors Conference and Empire Survey Review in promoting cadastral survey for land settlement. A regional case study of the Middle East investigates British land tenure reform through the settlement of land rights between the two world wars; Egypt was the model, and Sir Ernest Dowson the champion, of scientific cadastral survey. Connections are explored between colonial land titling programmes and post‐colonial developments.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Law Department, Anglia Ruskin University, Chelmsford, UK

Publication date: January 1, 2006

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