This introductory chapter begins with a brief discussion of the significance of the Colorado Supreme Court's seminal 1882 decision in Coffin v. Left Hand Ditch Co. for American property law. It then sets out the book's main purpose, which is to challenge the received wisdom regarding the ideology of western water law. The claims advanced in this book, stressing considerations of widespread distribution of property as the primary motivating factor in the adoption of appropriation law, challenge consensus views regarding property law and American legal history in general. An overview of the subsequent chapters is also presented.
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