This research project aims to reassess historiographical debates on shifting power relations in rural communities during the transition period 1750-1900, when village communities were gradually incorporated into modern society in Western Europe. The ambition of this project is to approach these shifts by analysing social property relations, which appear at the heart of power struggles between and among local actors, regional parties and state representatives. Currently, historians all too often restrict their focus to the existence of private and secure property rights, which is an insufficient and all too narrow approach to the problem. The innovation of this proposal is to perform in-depth socio-historical research of broad and complex bundles of use rights, as opposed to a one-sided design. The Ardennes, located in the very south of present-day Belgium offer an excellent case study to realize these ambitions, since a unique combination of small peasant ownership and various sets of common use rights survived throughout the period of rural
transformation. As such, the research project will zoom in on the changing (1) formal regulations, (2) actual distribution of land rights and (3) underlying social practices of negotiation and conflict. Ultimately, this three pronged research design will be implemented by placing in-depth sourcebased and long-term analysis of the Ardennes in a comparative interregional perspective within Western-Europe.