The Great Demarcation that began on the Night of 4 August launched a legal battle in the Constituent Assembly to develop and operationalize the radical distinction between public power and private property. If the old, still feudal regime united power and ownership in the crown and nobility, the separation would facilitate the private ownership of concrete lands and buildings and the plethora of abstract dues and rentals. The inheritance of feudalism (a system of ‘holding’ rather than ownership) dogged the efforts of the legal experts in all subsequent legislatures to sort out the vagaries of legal ownership. Thanks to the clear conceptual expression, engaging illustrative examples and orderly narration of Rafe Blaufarb, the modern reader need not be a legal expert to...

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