NCERT Solutions for Social Science,
Chapter 6 – History Peasants And Farmers
Activity 1 Look at the graph carefully. See how the price line moves up sharply in the 1790s and slumps dramatically after 1815.Can you explain why the line of the graph shows this pattern?
Answer During the 1790s, due to the industrial revolution, a large number of people migrated from the villages to the towns in search of jobs. For survival there, they had to buy food grains from the market. Due to this increased demand, the prices of food grains grew rapidly.
Another factor increasing the prices was the fact that England was at war with France from near the end of the 18th century and so food grain imports from Europe were drastically reduced. This made the agriculturists in England cover more land for growing grains, to increase their profits.
However, after the Napoleonic wars ended in 1815, the food grains started flowing in from Europe again. Together with the increased production in England itself, it caused a glut, thus depressing the prices substantially.
On Page 122
Question 1. What happened to the women and children? Cow keeping, collection of firewood, gleaning, gathering of fruits and berries from the common lands was earlier mostly done by women and children. Can you suggest how enclosures must have affected the lives of women and children? Can you imagine how the disappearance of common lands might have changed the relationship between men, women and children within the family?
Answer When the landlords erected these enclosures, the women and children could not carry out their traditional activities listed here. They could only do so against suitable payment, but as they were very poor, they could not do so.
Due to the disappearance of common lands, the traditional relationships in the families were drastically affected. Probably, the following problems would have occurred
(i) The men would become stressful due to being not able to feed the family properly. They would quarrel with other family members while trying to justify themselves.
(ii) The women would be trying to do odd jobs to earn some money and so neglecting their traditional family duties. They would also quarrel with other members of the family.
(iii) The children would be the most affected, as they would not get the nutrition desired. They may become ill-mannered and may also resort to stealing food items to satisfy their hunger.
Activity 1. Read Sources C and D and answer the following.
One peasant who lost his rights to common land after the enclosures wrote to the local lord: “Should a poor man take one of your sheep from the common, his life would be forfeited by law. But should You take the common from a hundred poor men’s sheep, the law gives no redress. The poor man is liable to be hung for taking from You what would not supply you with a meal; and You would do nothing illegal by depriving him of his subsistence; …What should be the inference of the poor…when the laws are not accessible to the injured poor and the government gives them no redress?
Source: JM Neeson, Commoners:
In contrast many writers emphasised the advantages of enclosures. There can be no
question of the superior profit to the farmer of enclosures rather than open fields. In one
case he is in chains; he can make no changes in soil or prices, he is like a horse in team.
he must jog along with the rest… John Middleton, an 18th century writer.
(a) What is the peasant trying to say in Source C?
Answer He is trying to say that the law is one-sided, only favouring the rich farmers, who have taken over the commons. A poor man can be hanged for stealing one sheep, whereas the rich landlords have taken over the common land in which the poor were earlier grazing their large numbers of sheep.
The rich farmers were not being penalised for taking over the commons, although they deprived the poor men’s sheep of fodder. He was protesting against the unjust laws.
(b) What is John Middleton arguing?
Answer John Middleton is arguing in favour of the rich farmers. He says that before the law regarding enclosures was enacted, the farmer could not make improvements in the soil, as other people were also using the same land. Now, when it is enclosed, he can make whatever changes he desires to improve the agricultural yield and thus increase his profits.
(c) Re-read from Section 1.1 to 1.4 and summarise the two sides of the argument for and against open fields. Which argument do you sympathise with?
Answer The main argument for open fields is that they are open to all for doing whatever they wanted, thus benefiting everybody. The main argument against open fields is that the land could not be improved for increasing the yield by anyone who wanted to do it.
He would have to abide by the majority opinion of all who were using the land. I would definitely sympathise with the people who wanted open fields, as they benefited everyone equally, without giving excess profit to one person at the expense of all other users.
Activity 1. On the arrows in the map indicate the commodities that flowed from one country to another.
Answer The commodities flowing are as given below :
(i) From India to China: Opium.
(ii) From China to England: Tea and silk.
(iii) From India to England: Sugarcane, cotton, jute, wheat and other crops.
(iv) From England to India: Manufactured goods.
Activity 1. Draw a timeline from 1650 to 1930 showing the significant agricultural changes which you have read about in this chapter.
Timeline of Agricultural Changes
|Year||Changes in England||Changes in America|
|1650||Enclosures promoting sheep rearing started|
|1660||Farmers begin growing turnip and clover to increase soil fertility|
|1800||Farm labourers started to be taken on part-time wages|
|1810||Introduction of threshing machines|
|1820||Grain prices start falling after rising for 25 years||Agriculture starts in Mississipi valley
|1830||Captain Swing Movement||Cyrus McCormick invents mechanical reaper|
|1850||Six million acres enclosed for grain production|
|1860||Agriculture starts in Great Plains|
|1900||Use of combined harvester started|
|1910||John Deere invents mechanical plough|
|1920||74 million acres under wheat cultivation|
|1930||Persistent drought and agrarian depression|
Activity 2 Fill in the following table with the events outlined in this chapter. Remember, there could be more than one change in a country.
|Country||Change which occurred||Who lost||Who won|
|Country||Change which occurred||Who lost||Who won|
|England||Open fields and commons enclosed||Poor people||Individual landlords|
|England||Age of enclosures||poor people||Rich landowners|
|England and America||Mechanical reaper/Combined harvester||Farm labour||Farmers|
|India||Introduction of opium cultivation||Indian farmers||British traders|
Question 1 Explain briefly what the open field system meant to rural people in the 18th century England? Look at the system from the point of view of
(a) a rich farmer
(b) a labourer
(c) a peasant woman
(a) A Rich Farmer : The open field system was not beneficial for the rich farmer. A rich farmer preferred to expand his land holding by enclosing the open land. In the 18th century, the second round of enclosing open fields took place to increase grain production.
(b) A Labourer: All villagers had access to common land or the open fields. The small poor farmers and labourers used the open fields for grazing sheep and cows. They fished in the rivers and ponds and hunted rabbit in common forests. For the poor labourer the open common land was essential for survival. It supplemented their meagre income, sustained their cattle and helped them tide over bad times when the crops failed.
(C) A Peasant Woman The poor woman collected fuelwood for fire and berries and fruit for food during the time of open fields and commons. So, it was beneficial to peasant women.
Question 2. Explain briefly the factors that led to the enclosures in England.
Answer The factors that led to the enclosure movement in England were the increase in prices of wool in the international market and the increased demand for food grains in England.
(i) Increase in Prices of Wool : In the 16th century, the price of wool in the international market went up so the rich farmers wanted to expand wool production to earn higher profits. They were eager to improve their sheep breeds and keen on controlling large areas of land in compact blocks to allow improved breeding so they started building hedges around their holdings to separate their property from that of others.
(ii) Increased Demand for Grain: From the mid 18th century the population of England expanded rapidly; more people were living the cities and working in the factories. As urban population grew demand for food grains increased and food grain prices rose.
Because of the war with France, trade was disrupted and import of grain from Europe declined, increasing prices of food grains in England. This encouraged landowners to enclose land and enlarge areas under grain cultivation, leading to the second enclosure movement.
Question 3. Why were threshing machines opposed by the poor in England?
Answer The poor labourers lived and worked on the land of the rich farmers for their livelihood and survival. During the Napoleonic wars the rich farmers introduced the threshing machines which reduced the demand for labour, as a result of which unemployment increased among the labourers.
The poor labourers thought that the machines were taking away their jobs and livelihoods and so they opposed the threshing machines and started destroying them and threatening the rich farmers to stop using them.
Question 4. Who was Captain Swing? What did his name symbolise or represent?
Answer Captain Swing was a mythical name used in the threatening letters written by the poor labourers in rural England to the rich family telling them to stop using threshing machines or face the consequence. The rich farmers had introduced threshing machines, due to which demand for labour decreased which caused the labourers to become agitated.
The name Captain Swing symbolised or represented the anger of the poor labourers in rural England who wanted return to the pre machine days when human labour was used.
Question 5. What was the impact of the westward expansion of settlers in the USA?
Answer With the westward expansion of settlers in USA the landscape of the country was transformed radically. White Americans had moved westward and established control upto the West coast, displacing local tribes and carving out the entire landscape into different agricultural belts.USA came to dominate the world market in agricultural produce. The local American Indians were driven out from their homeland. Many wars were which Indians were massacred and their villages burnt. Gradually, the whole of America was taken over by the white settlers.
Question 6. What were the advantages and disadvantages of the use of mechanical harvesting machines in the USA?
Answer Advantages : The new machines helped in breaking the hard ground with tractors and disk ploughs, clearing vast stretches for wheat cultivation.
The mechanical reaper involved by Cyrus McCormick Cormic could cut in one day as much as five men could cut with cradles and 16 men with sickles. With a combined harvester 500 acres of wheat could be harvested in two weeks. With power driven machinery four men could plough, seed and harvest 2,000 to 4,000 acres of wheat in just two weeks.
(i) Unemployment : Introduction of machines reduced the need for labour leading to unemployment on a large scale.
(ii) Unpaid Debts: Many poor farmers in USA had bought machines by taking loans from banks, but due to increased production there was surplus of food grains and storehouses overflowed. Prices fell, export collapsed, leading to an agrarian depression, due to which the farmers could not pay back the bank loans. So, they deserted their farms and looked for jobs elsewhere.
(iii) Dust Bowl :To expand cultivation, tractors had turned the soil over and broken the soil into dust. Over a period of time, overuse turned the whole region into a dust bowl, leading to terrifying dust storms called ‘black blizzards’ which blinded and choked the people; the animals were suffocated to death. The rivers were coated with dust and the fish died. The machinery was clogged with dust, and there was a huge damage to life and property.
Question 7. What lessons do we draw from the conversion of the Countryside in the USA from a bread basket to a dust bowl?
Answer Overuse and overexploitation of the soil for cultivation by machinery turned the soil into dust, ultimately leading to dust storms. These suffocated the people and cattle leading to their death, and clogged the machines and the tractors and damaged them beyond repair. The bread basket had turned into a dust bowl.
From this experience we learn that we should not overuse and over exploit our resources because it leads to ecological damage and environmental imbalance. To avoid that we should have respect for nature and ecology for a better future.
Question 8. Write a paragraph on why the British insisted on farmers growing opium in India?
Answer In the late 18th century, the east India Company was buying tea and silk from China for sale in England. As tea became a popular English drink, trade in tea became important, moving upto 50 million pounds in value. This created a problem because England at this time produced nothing that could be sold in China. The Chinese were suspicious of foreign goods and Chinese rulers did not allow foreign goods to enter China, so payment could be made only in silver coins or bullion which is unacceptable to the British because it would impoverish the nation.
The British therefore started an illegal trade in opium with Chinese merchants. The profit from opium trade could be used to buy tea and silk from China. The British needed more and more opium to export to China and therefore they insisted that Indian farmers should grow opium to fulfil the opium demand from China.
Question 9. Why were the Indian farmers reluctant to grow opium?
Answer The Indian farmers were reluctant to grow opium because of the following reasons:
First The crop had to be grown on the best land, on the fields that lay near the villages and were well manured. On this, the farmers usually produced pulses. If they planted opium on this land, then pulses could not be grown there or they would have to be grown on inferior land where harvests were poorer and uncertain.
Second Many cultivators owned no land. To cultivate opium they to pay rent and lease land from landlords and the rent charged on good lands near the villages was very high.
Third The cultivation of opium was a difficult process. The plant was delicate and cultivators had to spend long hours nurturing it. This meant that they did not have enough time to care for other crops. Fourth, the price which the government paid to the cultivators for the opium they produced was very low. It was unprofitable for the cultivators to grow opium at that price.