Class 9 Social Science Peasants and Farmers Exam Notes

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Class 9 Social Science Peasants and Farmers Exam Notes. Please refer to the examination notes which you can use for preparing and revising for exams. These notes will help you to revise the concepts quickly and get good marks.

The Time Of Open Fields And Commons

(i)Before late eighteenth and  early nineteenth centuries in large parts of England the countryside was open. It was not partitioned into enclosed lands privately owned by landlords. Peasants cultivated on strips of land around the village they lived in. At the beginning of each year, at a public meeting, each villager was allocated a number of strips to cultivate.Usually, these strips were of varying quality and often located in different places, not next to each other.The effort was to ensure that everyone had a mix of good and bad land. Beyond these strips of cultivation lay the common land. All villagers had access to the commons. Here they pastured their cows and grazed their sheep, collected fuel wood for fire and berries and fruit for food.They fished in the rivers and ponds, and hunted rabbit in common forests. For the poor, the common land was essential for survival. It supplemented their meagre income, sustained their cattle, and helped them tide over bad times when crops failed.

(ii)From about the sixteenth century. When the price of wool went up in the world market in the sixteenth century, rich farmers wanted to expand wool production to earn profits.They were eager to improve their sheep breeds and ensure good feed for them.They were keen on controlling large areas of land in compact blocks to allow improved breeding. So they began dividing and enclosing common land and building hedges around their holdings to separate their property from that of others.They drove out villagers who had small cottages on the commons, and they prevented the poor from entering the enclosed fields.Till the middle of the eighteenth century the enclosure movement proceeded very slowly.The early enclosures were usually created by individual landlords. They were not supported by the state or the church. After the mid-eighteenth century, however, the enclosure movement swept through the countryside, changing the English landscape for ever. Between 1750 and 1850, 6 million acres of land was enclosed.The British Parliament no longer watched this process from a distance. It passed 4,000 Acts legalising these enclosures.  

New Demand For Grain

(i)English population between 1750 and 1900, it multiplied over four times, mounting from 7 million in 1750 to 21 million in 1850 and 30 million in 1900.This meant an increased demand for foodgrains to feed the population. Moreover,Britain at this time was industrialising. More and more people began to live and work in urban areas. Men from rural areas migrated to towns in search of jobs.To survive.

they had to buy foodgrains in the market. As the urban population grew, the market for foodgrains expanded, and when demand increased rapidly, foodgrain prices rose.
(ii) By the end of the eighteenth century, France was at war with England. This disrupted trade and the import of foodgrains from Europe. Prices of foodgrains in England sky rocketed, encouraging
landowners to enclose lands and enlarge the area under grain cultivation.

(i) in the nineteenth century, grain production grew as quickly as population. Even though the population increased rapidly, in 1868 England was producing about 80 per cent of the food it consumed.
(ii) This increase in food-grain production was made possible not by any radical innovations in agricultural technology, but by bringing new lands under cultivation. Landlords sliced up pasturelands, carved up open fields, cut up forest commons, took over marshes, and turned larger and larger areas into
agricultural fields
→ Importance of turnip and clover for farmers :

In about the 1660s that farmers in many parts of England began growing turnip and clover. They soon discovered that planting these crops improved the soil and made it more fertile. Turnip was, moreover, a good fodder crop relished by cattle. So farmers began cultivating turnips and clover regularly. These crops became part of the cropping system. Later findings showed that these crops had the capacity to increase the nitrogen content of the soil. Nitrogen was important for crop growth. Cultivation of the same soil over a few years depleted the nitrogen in the soil and reduced its fertility. By restoring nitrogen, turnip and clover made the soil fertile once again.
Enclosures were now seen as necessary to make long-term investments on land and plan crop rotations to improve the soil. Enclosures also allowed the richer landowners to expand the land under their control and produce more for the market.

When fences came up, the enclosed land became the exclusive property of one landowner. The poor could no longer collect their firewood from the forests, or graze their cattle on the commons. They could no longer collect apples and berries, or hunt small animals for meat. Nor could they gather the
stalks that lay on the fields after the crops were cut. Everything belonged to the landlords, everything had a price which the poor could not afford to pay. In places where enclosures happened on an extensive scale – particularly the Midlands and the counties around – the poor were displaced from
the land. They found their customary rights gradually disappearing. Deprived of their rights and driven off the land, they tramped in search of work. From the Midlands, they moved to the southern counties of England. This was a region that was most intensively cultivated, and there was a great demand for
agricultural labourers. But nowhere could the poor find secure jobs. Earlier, it was common for labourers to live with landowners. They ate at the master’s table, and helped their master through the year, doing a variety of odd jobs. By 1800 this practice was disappearing. Labourers were being paid wages and employed only during harvest time. As landowners tried to increase their profits, they cut the amount they had to spend on their workmen. Work became insecure, employment uncertain,income unstable. For a very large part of the year the poor had no work.

(i) During the Napoleonic Wars, prices of foodgrains were high and farmers expanded production vigorously. Fearing a shortage of labour, they began buying the new threshing machines that had come into the market.
(ii) They complained of the insolence of labourers, their drinking habits, and the difficulty of making them work. The machines, they thought, would help them reduce their dependence on labourers. After the Napoleonic Wars had ended, thousands of soldiers returned to the villages. They needed alternative jobs to survive. But this was a time when grain from Europe began flowing into England, prices declined, and an Agricultural Depression set in Anxious, landowners began reducing the area they cultivated and demanded that the imports of crops be stopped. They tried to cut wages and the number of workmen they employed.
(iii) The Captain Swing riots spread in the countryside at this time. For the poor the threshing machines had become a sign of bad times.

(i) At the time that common fields were being enclosed in England at the end of the eighteenth century, settled agriculture had not developed on any extensive scale in the USA. Forests covered over 800 million acres and grasslands 600 million acres.
(ii) Most of the landscape was not under the control of white Americans. Till the 1780s, white American settlements were confined to a small narrow strip of coastal land in the east. If you travelled through the country at that time you would have met various Native American groups. Several of them were nomadic, some were settled. Many of them lived only by hunting, gathering and fishing; others cultivated corn, beans, tobacco and pumpkin.
(iii) By the early twentieth century, this landscape had transformed radically. While Americans had moved westward and established control up to the west coast, displacing local tribes and carving out the entire landscape into different agricultural belts. The USA had come to dominate the world market in agricultural produce.

(i) After the American War of Independence from 1775 to 1783 and the formation of the United States of America, the white Americans began to move westward. By the time Thomas Jefferson became President of the USA in 1800, over 700,000 white settlers had moved on to the Appalachian plateau
through the passes. Seen from the east coast, America seemed to be a land of promise. Its wilderness could be turned into cultivated fields. Forest timber could be cut for export, animals hunted for skin, mountains mined for gold and minerals.
(ii) In the decades after 1800 the US government committed itself to a policy of driving the American Indians westward, first beyond the river Mississippi, and then further west. Numerous wars were waged in which Indians were massacred and many of their villages burnt. The Indians resisted, won many victories in wars, but were ultimately forced to sign treaties, give up their land and move westward. As the Indians retreated, the settlers poured in. They came in successive waves. They settled on the Appalachian plateau by the first decade of the eighteenth century, and then moved into the Mississippi valley between 1820 and 1850. They slashed and burnt forests, pulled out the stumps, cleared the land for cultivation, and built log cabins in the forest clearings. Then they cleared larger areas, and erected fences around the fields. They ploughed the land and sowed corn and wheat. In the early years, the fertile soil produced good crops. When the soil became impoverished and exhausted in one place, the migrants would move further west, to explore new lands and raise a new crop. It was, however, only after the 1860s that settlers swept into the Great Plains across the River Mississippi.

(i) From the late nineteenth century, there was a dramatic expansion of wheat production in the USA. The urban population in the USA was growing and the export market was becoming ever bigger. As the demand increased, wheat prices rose, encouraging farmers to produce wheat. The spread of the railways made it easy to transport the grain from the wheat-growing regions to the eastern coast for export. By the early twentieth century the demand became even higher, and during the First World War the world market boomed.
(ii) In 1910, about 45 million acres of land in the USA was under wheat. Nine years later, the area hade xpanded to 74 million acres, an increase of about 65 per cent. Most of the increase was in the Great Plains where new areas were being ploughed to extend cultivation. In many cases, big farmers – the wheat barons – controlled as much as 2,000 to 3,000 acres of land individually.

(i) This dramatic expansion was made possible by new technology. Through the nineteenth century, as the settlers moved into new habitats and new lands, they modified their implements to meet their requirements.
(ii) The prairie was covered with a thick mat of grass with tough roots. To break the sod and turn the soil over, a variety of new ploughs were devised locally, By the early twentieth century, farmers in the Great Plains were breaking the ground with tractors and disk ploughs, clearing vast stretches for wheat cultivation.
In 1831, Cyrus McCormick invented the first mechanical reaper which could cut in one day as much as five men could cut with cradles and 16 men with sickles. By the early twentieth century, most farmers
were using combined harvesters to cut grain. With one of these machines, 500 acres of wheat could be harvested in two weeks.
(iii) For the big farmers of the Great Plains these machines had many attractions. The prices of wheat were high and the demand seemed limitless.
(iv) With power-driven machinery, four men could plough, seed and harvest 2,000 to 4,000 acres of wheat in a season.


For the poorer farmers, machines brought misery. Many of them bought these machines, imagining that wheat prices would remain high and profits would flow in. If they had no money, the banks offered loans. Those who borrowed found it difficult to pay back their debts. Many of them deserted their farms and looked for jobs elsewhere.
Mechanisation reduced the need for labour. After 1920s. most farmers faced trouble. Production had expanded so rapidly during the war and post-war years that that there was a large surplus. Unsold stocks piled up, storehouses overflowed with grain, and vast amounts of corn and wheat were turned into animal feed. Wheat prices fell and export markets collapsed. This created the grounds for the Great Agrarian Depression of the 1930s that ruined wheat farmers everywhere.

In the 1930s, terrifying dust storms began to blow over the southern plains. Black blizzards rolled in, very often 7,000 to 8,000 feet high, rising like monstrous waves of muddy water. As the skies darkened, and the dust swept in, people were blinded and choked. Cattle were suffocated to death, their lungs caked with dust and mud. Sand buried fences, covered fields, and coated the surfaces of rivers till the fish died. Dead bodies of birds and animals were strewn all over the landscape. Tractors and machines that had ploughed the earth and harvested the wheat in the 1920s were now clogged with dust, damaged beyond repair. they came because the early 1930s were years of persistent drought.. Ordinary dust storms became black blizzards only because the entire landscape had been ploughed over, stripped of all grass that held it together. When wheat cultivation had expanded dramatically in the early nineteenth century, zealous farmers had recklessly uprooted all vegetation, and tractors had turned the soil over, and broken the sod into dust. The whole region had become a dust bowl.


Over the period of colonial rule, the rural landscape was radically transformed. As cultivation expanded, the area under forests and pastures declined. In the colonial period, rural India also came to produce a range of crops for the world market. In the early nineteenth century, indigo and opium were two of the major commercial crops. By the end of the century, peasants were producing
sugarcane, cotton, jute, wheat and several other crops for export, to feed the population of urban.
Europe and to supply the mills of Lancashire and Manchester in England.

(i) In the late eighteenth century, the English East India Company was buying tea and silk from China for sale in England. As tea became a popular English drink, the tea trade became more and more important. In 1785, about 15 million pounds of tea was being imported into England. By 1830, the figure had jumped to over 30 million pounds. In fact, the profits of the East India Company came to depend on the tea trade.
(ii) England at this time produced nothing that could be easily sold in China. The Confucian rulers of China, In such a situation, how could Western merchants finance the tea trade? They could buy tea only by paying in silver coins or bullion. This meant an outflow of treasure from England, a prospect that created widespread anxiety. Merchants therefore looked for ways to stop this loss of silver. They searched for a commodity they could sell in China, something they could persuade the Chinese to buy. Opium was such a commodity.
(iii) The Chinese were aware of the dangers of opium addiction, and the Emperor had forbidden its production and sale except for medicinal purposes. But Western merchants in the mid-eighteenth century began an illegal trade in opium.
(iv)While the English cultivated a taste for Chinese tea, the Chinese became addicted to opium, People of all classes took to the drug-shopkeepers and peddlers, officials and army men, aristocrats and paupers.
As China became a country of opium addicts, British trade in tea flourished. The returns from opium sale financed the tea purchases in China.

When the British conquered Bengal, they made a determined effort to produce opium in the lands under their control. Before 1767, no more than 500 chests were being exported from India. A hundred years later in 1870, the government was exporting about 50,000 chests annually.

First, the crop had to be grown on the best land, on fields that lay near villages and were well manured.
Second, many cultivators owned no land. To cultivate, they had to pay rent and lease land from landlords. And the rent charged on good lands near villages was very high.
Third, the cultivation of opium was a difficult process. Finally, the price the government paid to the cultivators for the opium they produced was very low.

(i) In the rural areas of Bengal and Bihar, there were large numbers of poor peasants. From the 1780s, such peasants found their village headmen (mahato) giving them money advances to produce opium.
(ii) By taking the 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.
(iii) The problem could have been partly solved by increasing the price of opium. The prices given to the peasants were so low that by the early eighteenth century angry peasants began agitating for higher prices and refused to take advances.

1. Shifting Agriculture : Under this farmers cultivate a land for some time and after the land become infertile they shift to new land.
2. Captain Swing : A mystic name used by poor labourers of England to threaten those who were introducing machines in agriculture.
3. Shilling : An English currency.
4. Great Agrarian Depression : It was a depression which occurred in USA in the 1930’s. It occurred because of surplus production in agriculture and ruined farmers everywhere.
5. Swing movement : It was a movement which was launched by the poor workers of England against the introduction of threshing machines by the rich landlords.

6. Dust Bowl Tragedy : It was a tragedy which occurred in 1930’s. The extensive use of prairies was responsible for the tragedy. Under this black blizzards become common in the Prairies.

7. Bushel : A measure of capacity.8. Sod : Pieces of earth with grass.
9. Mound : A measure of weight.
10. Opium Trade : The smuggling of opium into China on a large scale in order to its trade more profitable.

Q.1 What is strip cultivation ?
Q.2 How did food production increase in the 19th century ?
Q.3 Why did rich farmers use the threshing machines ?
Q.4 What were the occupations of the Native Americans ?
Q.5 Why and how were the Native Americans driven westwards ?
Q.6 What problems did expansion of wheat agriculture in the Great Plains cause ?
Q.7 Why were threshing machines opposed by the poor in England ?
Q.8 Who was Captain Swing ? What did the name symbolise or represent ?
Q.9 What items did the British merchants buy from China ? Why did they start smuggling opium into China ?
Q.10 What was enclosure system ?
Q.11 Mention any four factors which encouraged the enclosure system.
Q.12 Mention the factor responsible for Dust Bowl Tragedy ?
Q.13 Which European country introduced opium into China ?
Q.14 What were the difference in the enclosures of the 16th century from the 18th century in England ?
Q.15 What was the impact of opium trade on China ?
Q.1 Why were the Indian farmers reluctant to grow opium ?
Q.2 What simple innovations helped to increase agricultural production in England ?
Q.3 What changes occurred due to coming of modern agriculture in England ?
Q.4 How were the Indian peasants made to produce opium ?
Q.5 What was the impact of enclosures on the poor farmers ?
Q.6 What was the impact of agriculture revolution or enclosures on England ?
Q.7 What was the importance of turnip and cloves for the England farmers ?
Q.8 Explain the Dust Bowl Tragedy.
Q.9 What were the causes of westward migrations in 19th century why was it resented by peasants ?
Q.10 What were the draw backs of old system of cultivation in England ?
Q.1 Explain the major factors responsible for a conflict between the British government, peasants and local traders.
Q.2 How were unwilling cultivators made to produce opium in field ?
Q.3 Explain the major features of ‘open field’ system which was prevailing in England in the 18th and early 19th century.
Q.4 How were poor affected by the enclosure movement ?
Q.5 What factors led to a dramatic expansion in America wheat production ?

Q.1 What is shillings ?
(A) Currency 
(B) Edible items
(C) Electronic thing 
(D) Cereals
Q.2 Who invented the first mechanical reaper ?
(A) Thomas Jefferson 
(B) Wilson
(C) Cyrus Mccormick
(D) Lin-ze-xu
Q.3 Who gave the slogan “Plant more wheat, wheat will win the war” ?
(A) Georg Bush 
(B) Wilson
(C) Jefferson 
(D) Lin-Ze-Xu
Q.4 Which European country introduced opium into China ?
(A) England 
(B) France
(C) Germany 
(D) Portugal
Q.5 When was opium introduced in China ?
(A) 16th century 
(B) 17th century
(C) 18th century 
(D) 19th century
Q.6 A type of agriculture which is linked to market ?
(A) Shifting agriculture
(B) Commercial agriculture
(C) Subsistence farming
(D) None of these
Q.7 Who invented threshing machine ?
(A) Jethro Tull 
(B) Jospeh Folyambe’s
(C) Andrew Meikle
(D) None of these
Q.8 Seed drill was invented by -
(A) Jethro Tull
(B) Wilson
(C) Lin-Ze-Xu
(D) All of them
Q.9 What is sod ?
(A) A measure of capacity
(B) English currency
(C) Piece of earth with grass
(D) Measure of weight
Q.10 What is Maund ?
(A) Measure of weight
(B) Piece of earth with grass
(C) English currency
(D) Measure of capacity
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