Land tells a story of con­quest

The Star Early Edition - - OPINION & ANALYSIS -

DIS­PUTES over land or ter­ri­tory are a cause of wars – in­ter­na­tional, national, re­gional, tribal and even fa­mil­ial.

Po­lit­i­cal history is full of the counter-trends of uni­fi­ca­tion and frag­men­ta­tion of na­tions. Thus, in the past cen­tury, Europe has un­der­gone the uni­fi­ca­tion of many na­tions and the sub­se­quent con­glom­er­a­tion into po­lit­i­cal blocs, such as the Soviet Union.

This been fol­lowed by their dis­in­te­gra­tion and the re-es­tab­lish­ment of the pre­vi­ous na­tion­alisms. It is un­cer­tain whether Europe will dis­in­te­grate or con­tinue to con­glom­er­ate.

The same piece of land in Europe could, ac­cord­ingly, change na­tion­al­ity, re­flect­ing con­quests and oc­cu­pa­tions.

The most in­ter­est­ing case of sta­bil­ity is found in Eng­land. In 1085 Wil­liam the Con­queror de­cided to carry out an in­ven­tory of all the land.

The re­sult was the for­mi­da­ble “Domes­day Book”, a vast project record­ing own­er­ship of every piece of land. Amaz­ingly, it was pro­duced in about a year, hand­writ­ten and with­out GPS.

It be­came the of­fi­cial record, prin­ci­pally as a source of rev­enue, payable to the king. The book gives the lie to the pop­u­lar mis­con­cep­tion that “me­dieval” means slow-mov­ing and in­ef­fi­cient.

In Africa the de­mar­ca­tion of ter­ri­to­ries is largely the legacy of colo­nial­ism.

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