What is heritage?

What Does Heritage Mean

We explain what heritage is in various fields, its characteristics and origin. Also, what types of heritage exist.

A heritage is that which can be inherited and is worth preserving.

What is heritage?

Heritage is a legacy, an inheritance , something that we receive from the past or that is part of a valuable heritage worth preserving. However, this term can have very different meanings depending on the area of knowledge from which we contemplate it.

For example, equity in the legal sense is the totality of the assets and liabilities of a natural or legal person , that is, “all those legal relationships (…) that have an economic utility and therefore are susceptible to pecuniary estimation”. The latter means that they can be translated into an amount in money .

In this sense, when a company loses part of its assets, we understand that it is impoverished: it has had to sell part of its assets or its shares in other companies, for example. The same happens when we say that someone has a gigantic patrimony: that the total of the goods and capital that he owns yield a very significant sum.

However, this term can also be used to refer to the historical, documentary or even natural assets that a nation possesses : this would be its historical heritage or its natural heritage, although they cannot really be sold or bought, since their value would be too big to be measured in money.

See also: Cultural heritage

Heritage characteristics

In general, all assets are characterized by:

  • From an economic point of view, it must be measurable or estimated in money . For this reason, their fundamental rights, which cannot be bought or sold, are not part of the patrimony of each person.
  • From an accounting point of view, it is made up of two parts: an asset (all capital and financial instruments, as well as all those goods that could be sold to receive capital) and a liability (all debts, obligations or tax charges in general) .
  • The assets that constitute someone's estate can generally be inherited , that is, transmitted by line of succession. This is especially true for natural, historical or cultural heritages that accompany generations of human beings, without belonging to any specific individual.
  • From the legal point of view, it covers not only the assets of a natural or legal person, but also their rights and obligations .

Origin of the term heritage

With the Napoleonic Code of the 19th century, the modern legal idea of heritage was born.

The term patrimony comes from the Latin patrimonium , conformed in turn by pater ("father") and monium ("received"), so that it could be understood as "what was received from the father." At that time the family assets of the noble citizens (called patricians) were transmitted from the father to his male children, since their administration was from the pater familia (the "father of the family"), although their property was family.

The Roman-like notion of heritage was kept alive in law for centuries. However, the Napoleonic Code defined it as individual property , due to the prevailing liberal thought at the time. It is precisely at that moment in the 19th century that the modern legal idea of heritage was born.

Types of heritage

Heritage can be classified from many perspectives, since it is a concept that has many edges from which to approach it. We will try to detail a few of them below:

  • According to its nature , we can distinguish three types of heritage:
    • Economic heritage. That would come to be the traditional notion, in which the goods, rights, liabilities and assets of a natural or legal person are covered.
    • Natural heritage. Constituted by the set of landscapes , natural wonders, natural resources and geological heritage that belongs to a specific nation, and that is relevant from an environmental, scientific and aesthetic point of view. Natural heritage is generally understood to be national parks, nature sanctuaries and natural monuments.
    • Cultural and / or historical heritage . Understood as the set of assets that its own history has left as an inheritance to a nation, and that therefore are covered with a very important historical, symbolic and / or aesthetic character. Cultural heritage encompasses both cultural practices, such as archaeological sources, artistic works ,popular traditions , etc., in which theparticular identity of a nation or a communityis contained.
  • According to its tangibility , we can talk about:
    • Tangible heritage. When it comes to concrete, physical elements that can be touched. In turn, it can be classified into two, according to its mobility:
      • Tangible movable heritage. When it comes to physical, concrete objects that can be carried or moved from one place to another.
      • Tangible real estate heritage. When it comes to physical, concrete objects that cannot be carried or moved from one place to another, due to their size, weight or fragility.
    • Intangible heritage. When it comes to abstract elements, they cannot be touched.
  • Depending on your beneficiary , you can distinguish between:
    • Personal assets. When it is owned by a single person, natural or legal.
    • Collective heritage. When it is not owned by a private individual, but by two or more, or by the entire community: a nation, a group, etc.

Continue with: Private property

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