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Summary: Peasants & Farmers Notes | Study Social Studies (SST) Class 9 - Class 9

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Introduction
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Introduction
The lives of peasants and farmers of three locations:

  • the small cottagers in England.
  • the wheat farmers of the USA.
  • the opium producers of Bengal.

The Coming of Modern Agriculture in England

  • Before sixteenth century, in large parts of England, the countryside was open.
  • The common land was there which is accessible to all villagers where they can graze their animals, collect forest products, catch fish and hunt animals.
  • With the rise in population, the demand for food grains also increased.
    • Rich farmers began dividing and enclosing common land
  • After the mid-eighteenth century, this enclosure process expanded through the countryside.
  • British Parliament passed 4000 Acts legalising these enclosures.

New Demands for Grain
After mid-eighteenth century, the demand of foodgrains increased in England because:

  • Rise in Population
  • People began to live and work in urban areas
  • War between France and England

The Age of Enclosures
In the nineteenth century grain production in England grew as quickly as population by

  • bringing new land under cultivation
  • growing turnip and clover, these crops improved the soil and made it more fertile.

What Happened To the Poor?

  • Enclosures found their customary rights gradually disappearing
    • Now everything was available on payment basis only
  • By 1800, labourers were being paid wages and employed only during harvest time.

The Introduction of Threshing Machines

  • During the Napoleonic Wars, farmers began buying the new threshing machines that had come into the market, fearing a shortage of labour.
  • After the war, soldiers returned to the villages and needed alternative jobs to survive. 
  • As their jobs were taken over by the machines, people were not able to find jobs.
  • Thus, they started threatening farmers through letters urging them to stop using machines that deprived workmen of their livelihood. 
    • Most of these letters were signed in the name of Captain Swing.

Bread Basket and Dust Bowl – Case Study of US

  • Till the 1780s, white American settlements were confined to a small narrow strip of coastal land in the east.
  • White Americans lived in a narrow strip of coastal land in the east.
  • Native American groups survived by hunting, gathering, fishing or by doing shifting cultivation.

The Westward move and Wheat Cultivation

  • After the formation of USA, white settlers started moving towards west, America seemed to be a land of promise.
  • White settlers drove American Indians westwards and settled in the Applachian, than in Mississippi valley, cleared land and sowed corn and wheat.

The Wheat Farmers

  • Rise in the urban population increased the demand for wheat and encouraged farmers to produce wheat.
  • Spread of Railways and First World War created more demand.

The Coming of New Technology

  • Through the nineteenth century, the farmers entered the mid-western prairies and they needed new types of implements to break the sod and the soil.
  • Before the 1830s, to harvest crop they initially used cradle or sickle.
    • In 1831 Cyrus McCormick invented the first Mechanical reaper.
  • By early twentieth century most farmers were using combined harvesters to cut grain.

What Happened to the Poor?

  • Many of them bought these machines on loans, however, many were not able to pay back their debts, deserted their farms and looked jobs elsewhere
  • Unsold foodgrains stocks piled up.
    • Wheat prices fell and export markets collapsed.
    • This created the grounds for the Great Agrarian Depression of the 1930s.

Dust Bowl

  • In the 1930s terrifying duststorms rolled in.
  • People were blinded and choked, cattle were suffocated to death.
  • Sand buried fences, covered fields and coated the surfaces of rivers till the fish died.
    • Machines were logged with dust, damaged beyond repair.
  • The entire landscape was ploughed, stripped of all grass, tractors had turned the soil over and broken the sod into dust.
  • They came because the early 1930s were years of persistent drought.

The Indian Farmer and Opium Production

  • The British imposed a regular system of land revenue, increase revenue rates, and expand the area under cultivation.
  • By the end of the nineteenth century, India became a major centre for production of sugarcane, cotton, jute, wheat and several other crops for export.

A Taste for Tea: The Trade with China

  • The English East India Company was buying tea and silk from China.
  • The Confucian rulers of China, the Manchus were not willing to allow the entry of foreign goods. 
    • English could buy tea only by paying in silver coins or bullion which meant an outflow of treasure from England.
  • The English traders wanted a community which could be easily sold in China so that the import of tea could be financed in a profitable way.
  • Western merchants began an illegal trade in opium in the mid-eighteenth century.

Where did Opium come from?

  • When the British conquered Bengal, they made a ffort to produce opium in the lands under their control.
  • With the growth of market for opium in China, export from Bengal ports increased.
  • The Indian farmers were not willing to produce opium because:
    • They were not willing to divert their best fields for opium cultivation because it would have resulted in poor production cereals and pulses.
    • Many cultivators did not own land. For opium cultivation, they had to lease land from landlords and pay rent.
    • The cultivation of opium was a difficult process and time consuming.
    • The government paid very low price for the opium which made it an unprofitable proposition.

How Were Unwilling Cultivators Made to Produce Opium?

  • By giving advance loan, the cultivator was forced to grow opium on a specified area of land and hand over the produce to the agents once the crop had been harvested.
  • The cultivator also had to accept the low price offered for the produce.
  • British wanted to buy very cheap and sell at high premium to the opium agents in Calcutta.
    • Thus, the British wanted to earn huge profit in opium trade.
  • By the early eighteenth century, the cultivators began to refuse the advances.
    • Many cultivators sold their crop to travelling traders who offered higher prices.
  • By 1773, the British government in Bengal had established a monopoly to trade in opium.
  • By the 1820s, the British found that there was a drastic fall in opium production in their territories.
  • The production of opium was increasing outside the British territories.
    • It was produced in Central India and Rajasthan which were not under British control. The local traders in these regions were offering much higher prices to peasants.
  • The Government instructed its agents in those princely states to confiscate all opium and destroy the crops.
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