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Law and English Railway Capitalism 1825–1875$
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R. W. Kostal

Print publication date: 1997

Print ISBN-13: 9780198265672

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: March 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198265672.001.0001

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The Invasion of the Land

The Invasion of the Land

Railways, Land Expropriation, and Legal Process, 1825–1850

(p.144) 4 The Invasion of the Land
Law and English Railway Capitalism 1825–1875

R. W. Kostal

Oxford University Press

In the span of only twenty-five years, 1825 to 1850, Parliament equipped scores of steam railway companies with the legal power to compel the sale of tens of thousands of acres of privately held English real property. While in the 1830s railways remained a relatively humble experiment, by the mid-century they ‘had got into their possession a very considerable portion of the entire surface of the country’. The railway movement brought about the most dramatic infringement of private property rights in England since the Civil War. Few estates, including those of the nobility, were entirely safe from what contemporary observers justly referred to in the 1840s as the railway ‘invasion’ of the land. The acquisition of land by the burgeoning railway industry of the 1840s engendered yet another large and lucrative sphere of opportunity for both branches of the English legal profession. The sustained and often acrimonious conflict between landowners and land-hungry railway companies was permeated and mediated by lawyers, legal processes, and ideas.

Keywords:   steam railway companies, English real property, private property rights infringement, land use

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