Study Material and Notes of Ch 6 Peasants and Farmers Class 9th History

• This chapter deals with 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
(i) bringing new land under cultivation
(ii) 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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