Gregory {Greg} Downing gd2 at IS2.NYU.EDU
Mon Aug 16 13:45:41 UTC 1999

At 12:01 AM 8/16/99 -0700, "M. Rudge" <mrudge at U.WASHINGTON.EDU> wrote:
>Does anyone know where the term squatting (as in the unlawful occupation of
>abandoned buildings by the homeless) originated? The term is widely
>used in Europe and the United States. If anyone has any clues or clues to
>where I might be able to find such information I would be very thankful.

OED2 squat v., meanings 9a and 9c:

9a. To settle upon new, uncultivated, or unoccupied land without any legal
title and without the payment of rent. Orig. U.S.
Freq. const. on or upon (land).
1800 Mississippi Territorial Archives (1906) 212, I wish also to be
instructed for my Conduct towards those people Squatting or establishing
themselves upon the Public Lands.
1829 Marryat F. Mildmay xxi, He was a Kentucky man, of the Ohio, where he
had `squatted', as we say.
1854 Thoreau Walden (1863) 70 As for a habitat, if I were not permitted
still to squat, I might purchase one acre.
1884 St. James's Gaz. 20 June 6/1 The ancestors of many of the present
freeholders began to squat upon the uncultivated slopes of the hills.

9c. To occupy an uninhabited building illegally (esp. said of a group of
homeless people organized for this purpose); to live as a squatter (squatter
n.1 1 d).
1880 Dixon Windsor IV. xxix. 269 Paupers had squatted in many of the towers.
1937 `G. Orwell' Road to Wigan Pier v. 81 In one town I remember a whole
colony of them who were squatting, more or less illicitly, in a derelict
house which was practically falling down.
1946 Daily Worker 9 Sept. 4/3 We...decided to assist homeless people to
squat in certain of these buildings.
1969 Listener 15 May 665/1 No one expects to see 40,000 people squatting
this year as there were 23 years ago.
1969 Peace News 13 June 5/1 One startling realisation...is how few is the
number of families that have had the courage to squat.
1980 Oxf. Compan. Law 1171/2 Persons may squat in buildings by reason of
inability to find other accommodation and may do so deliberately as a
protest against shortage of housing in the area.

Greg Downing/NYU, at greg.downing at nyu.edu or gd2 at is2.nyu.edu

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