Detailed Chapter Notes - Forest Society and Colonialism Notes | Study Social Studies (SST) Class 9 - Class 9

Class 9: Detailed Chapter Notes - Forest Society and Colonialism Notes | Study Social Studies (SST) Class 9 - Class 9

The document Detailed Chapter Notes - Forest Society and Colonialism Notes | Study Social Studies (SST) Class 9 - Class 9 is a part of the Class 9 Course Social Studies (SST) Class 9.
All you need of Class 9 at this link: Class 9

Advantages of Forests

  • Play a major role in improving the quality of the environment, modify the local climate, controls soil erosion, regulate stream flow, support a variety of industries, provide a livelihood for many communities and after opportunities for recreation.
  • Forest adds to the floor large quantities of leaves, twigs and branches which after decomposition forms humus.
  • Provided industrial wood, limber, fuelwood, fodder and several other minor products of great economic value.
  • They also provide a natural environment for wildlife, play an important role in maintaining the life support system.

Detailed Chapter Notes - Forest Society and Colonialism Notes | Study Social Studies (SST) Class 9 - Class 9

Why Deforestation?

The disappearance of forests is referred to as deforestation .deforestation is not a recent problem. The process began many centuries ago, but under colonial rule, it became more systematic and extensive.

Land to be Improved

  • As the population increased over the centuries and the demand for food went up, peasants extended the boundaries of cultivation, clearing forests and breaking new land.
  • The British directly encouraged the production of commercial crops like jute, sugar, wheat and cotton. the demand for these crops increased in nineteenth-century Europe where food grains were needed to feed the growing urban population and raw materials were required for industrial production.
  • In the early nineteenth century, the colonial state thought that forests were unproductive. They were considered to be wilderness that had to be brought under cultivation so that the land could yield agricultural products and revenue and enhance the income of the state. so between  1880 and 1920, cultivated area rose by 6.7 million hectares.

Sleepers on the Tracks

  • Due to high demand, oak forests in England were disappearing. This created a problem of timber supply for the Royal Navy which required it for building ships. To get the supply of oak for the shipping industry British started exploring Indian forests on a massive scale.
  • The spread of railways from the 1850s created a new demand. To run locomotives, wood was needed as fuel. As the railway was expanding, the demand for rule also became very high.
  • To lay railway lines sleepers were essential to hold the tracks together. Each mile of railway track required between 1760 and 2000 sleepers to fulfil the demand of sleepers’ trees was felled on a massive scale. Up to 1946, the length of the tracks had increased to over 765000 km. as the railway tracks spread through India, larger numbers of trees were felled. Forests around the railway tracks started disappearing.


Large areas of natural forests were also cleared to make way for tea, coffee and rubber plantations to meet Europe’s growing need for these commodities. The colonial government took over the forests and gave vast areas to European planters at cheap rates. These areas were enclosed and cleared of forests, and planted with tea or coffee.

The Rise of Commercial Forestry

In India, colonial rulers needed huge supplies of wood for railways and ships. This led to widespread deforestation. The British government got alarmed. The government invite Dietrich Brand is a German expert on forests, for advice, he was appointed as the first Inspector General of Forests in India. The brand is emphasized that rules need to be framed about the use of forest wealth. The brand is realized that a proper system had to be introduced to manage the forests and people had to be the science of conservation. This system needed legal sanction. It was at his initiatives that;

  • Indian Forest Service was set up in 1864.
  • Indian Forest Act was enacted in 1865
  • Imperial Forest Research Institute was set up in 1906. The system they taught here was called ‘scientific forestry’.

The 1878 Act divided forests into three categories: reserved, protected and village forests. The best forests were called ‘reserved forestry’. Villagers could not take anything from these forests, even for their own use. For house building or fuel, they could take wood from protected or village forests.

Try yourself:Indian Forest Service was set up in the year….? 
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How were the Lives of People Affected?

The Forest Act meant severe hardship for villagers across the country. After the Act all their everyday practice - cutting wood for their houses, grazing their cattle, collecting fruits and roots, hunting and fishing n- became illegal. People were now forced to steal wood from the forests, and if they were caught, they were at the mercy of the forest guards who would take bribes from them. Women who collected fuelwood were especially worried. It was also common for police constables and forest guards to harass people by demanding free food from them.

How did Forest Rules Affect Cultivation?

One of the major impacts of European colonialism was off the practice of shifting cultivation or swidden agriculture. Shifting cultivation as a system of agriculture has the following features:

  • Parts of forests are cut and burnt in rotation
  • Seeds are sown in the ashes sifter the first monsoon rains.
  • Crop is harvested by October-November.
  • Such plots are cultivated for a couple of years and then left fallow for 12 to 18 years for the forest to grow back. Shifting cultivation has been practised in many parts of Asia, Africa and South America. In India, it is known by different names, such as dhya, panda, bewar, nevad, jhum, podu, khandad and kumri.    

The colonial government banned this practise of shifting cultivation. They felt that land which was used for cultivation every few years could not grow trees for railway timber.

Who could Hunt?

  • The forest laws forbade the villagers from hunting in the forests but encouraged hunting as a big sport.
  • They felt that the wild animals were savage, wild and primitive, just like the Indian society and that it was their duty to civilise them.

New Trades, New Employments and New Services

New opportunities opened up in trade. In India, forest trade was not new. It existed from the medieval period, where Adivasi communities used to trade elephants and other goods like hides, horns, silk cocoons, ivory, bamboo, spices, fibres, grasses, gums and resins through nomadic communities like the Banjaras. But, trade was completely regulated by the government, which gave many large European trading firms the sole right to trade in the forest products of particular areas. New opportunities for work did not improve the well-being of the people.

Rebellion in the Forest

Forest communities rebelled against the changes that were being imposed on them. Some of the leaders of these movements are the Siddhu and Kanu in the Santhal Parganas, Birsa Munda of Chhotanagpur or Alluri Sitarama Raju of Andhra Pradesh.

The People of Bastar

  • Bastar is located in the southernmost part of Chhattisgarh.
  • The initiative was taken by the Dhurwas of the Kanger forest where reservation first took place.
  • The new law of the Forest Act introduced by the Colonial government reserved two-thirds of the forest in 1905.
  • The British sent troops to suppress the rebellion.
  • It took them three months to regain control.
  • A victory for the people of Bastar was that the work on the reservation was suspended and the area was reduced to half of that planned before 1910.

The Fears of the People

In 1905, the colonial government proposed to reserve two-thirds of the forest and stop shifting cultivation, hunting and collection of forest produce. Some people used to stay in forests by working free for the forest department and these are called forest villagers. Villagers for the long run suffered from increased land rents and frequent demands of labour and goods. People started discussing these issues in their village councils, bazaars, and art festivals. Dhurwas of the Kanger forest took initiative where reservation first took place. Bazaars were looted, the houses of officials and traders, schools and police stations were burnt and robbed, and grain redistributed. British troops were sent to suppress the rebellion. After Independence, the same practice of keeping people out of the forests and preserving them for industrial use continued.

Forest Transformations in Java

Java is famous as a rice-producing island in Indonesia. But, there was a time when it was covered mostly with forests. In Java, the Dutch started forest management. Villages existed in the fertile plains, and there were also many communities living in the mountains and practising shifting cultivation.

The Woodcutters of Java

The Kalangs of Java were skilled forest cutters and shifting cultivators. They are experts in harvesting teak and for the kings to build their palaces. When the Dutch began to gain control over the forests in the eighteenth century, they tried to make the Kalangs work under them. In 1770, the Kalangs resisted by attacking a Dutch fort at Joana, but the uprising was suppressed.

Dutch Scientific Forestry

  • Forest laws were enacted in Java.
  • The villagers resisted these laws.
  • Forest timber was used for ships and railway sleepers.
  • The Dutch government used the ‘blandongdiensten’ system for extracting free labour from the villagers.

Samin’s Movement

  • Around 1890, Samin of Randublatung village (a teak forest village) questioned the state ownership of forests.
  • A widespread movement spread.
  • They protested by lying on the ground when the Dutch came to survey it and refusing to pay taxes and perform labour.

World Wars and Deforestation

  • The world wars had a major impact on forests.
  • The forest department cut freely to meet the British demands.
  • In Indonesia, the Dutch destroyed sawmills and burnt huge piles of teak logs.
  • The Japanese after occupying Indonesia exploited the forests recklessly for their war needs.

New Developments

  • The government realised that if forests are to survive, the local community needs to be involved.
  • There are many such examples in India where communities are conserving forests in sacred groves. This looking after is done by each member of the village and everyone is involved.

Try yourself:The Kalangs resisted the Dutch in
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The document Detailed Chapter Notes - Forest Society and Colonialism Notes | Study Social Studies (SST) Class 9 - Class 9 is a part of the Class 9 Course Social Studies (SST) Class 9.
All you need of Class 9 at this link: Class 9

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Detailed Chapter Notes - Forest Society and Colonialism Notes | Study Social Studies (SST) Class 9 - Class 9