The role of land in economic theory is surveyed, both from a conceptual and historical perspective. Land has been incorporated in economic theories in various ways. Originally, land used by agriculture was the main motivation for an economic treatment of land. This was gradually extended with various other land use categories. Neoclassical economic theory gave less attention to land use, generally regarding land as a production factor of relatively little importance. Nevertheless, specialized sub-fields within economics such as regional and urban economics met the demand for explicit spatial analysis including land use considerations. Attention for environmental and resource problems has stimulated new perspectives on, and conceptualizations of, land in economic analysis. This involves the interaction with other disciplines as well as the use of spatially disaggregated methods of analysis. Awareness of the richness of ideas on land in economic theory can contribute to enhanced environmental research. © 2005 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.