Peasant and Farmers Class 9 Extra Questions Social Science History Chapter 6

Peasant and Farmers Class 9 Extra Questions Social Science History Chapter 6

Peasant and Farmers Class 9 Extra Questions Very Short Answer Type Questions

Question 1.
For the poor in England, the common land was essential for survival because it _________ .
Answer:
Supplemented their meagre income, helped them tide over bad times and sustained their cattle.

Question 2.
Who was the American leader under whom maximum expansion of wheat cultivation took place ?
Answer:
President Wilson

Question 3.
What was the reason that the landlords and rich farmers decided to buy threshing machines ?
Answer:
They wanted to reduce their dependence on labourers.

Question 4.
What was done in different countries of England during the captain swing movement ?
Answer:
Threshing machines were broken on a large scale.

Question 5.
Which system was adopted by the British to convince the unwilling Indian cultivators to produce opium ?
Answer:
Advances

Question 6.
Peasants lost their rights to common land due to the introduction of _________ .
Answer:
Enclosures

Question 7.
Which two items did the British merchants import from China.
Answer:
The British Merchants imported silk and tea from China.

Question 8.
Between 1820 to 1850 in which area did Indian Americans settles down ?
Answer:
Missisippi Valley

Question 9.
What do you mean by the term “Black Blizzard” ?
Answer:
Terrifying dust storms

Question 10.
Great agrarian depression of 1930 was caused by :
Answer:
Overproduction and subsequent fall of agricultural prices

Question 11.
Who said, ‘Plant more wheat, wheat will win the war’ ?
Answer:
US President, Wilson.

Question 12.
When did Cyrus McCormick invent the first mechanical reaper ?
Answer:
1831

Question 13.
The history of opium production in India was linked up with the story of British trade with _________ .
Answer:
China.

Question 14.
The Portuguese had introduced opium into China in the early _________ .
Answer:
Sixteenth century.

Question 15.
Why had the Chinese banned the production and sale of Opium ?
Answer:
Because of its addictive properties.

Question 16.
The concept of enclosures striked the mind of rich farmers to _________ .
Answer:
Expand wool production and improve their sheep breeds.

Question 17.
Why did the ordinary dust storm took the form of Black Blizzard in US plains in the 1930s ?
Answer:
Because the entire landscape had been ploughed over, stripped of all the grass that held it the together

Question 18.
Who created the early enclosures ?
Answer:
Individual landlards created the early enclosures.

Question 19.
The Great Agrarian Depression of the 1930s was caused by :
Answer:
Overproduction of wheat

Question 20.
What did the settlers of the Great Plains realise after the 1930s ?
Ans
After the 1930s, that they had to respect the ecological conditions of each region

Question 21.
What was the advantage of Enclosure Movement to landowners ?
Answer:
Enclosures allowed the richer landowners to expand the land under their control and produce more for the market.

Question 22.
Who were Wheat Barons ?
Answer:
Wheat Barons were big farmers who controlled 2,000 to 3,000 acres of land individually.

Question 23.
What was the triangular trade ?
Answer:
The triangular trade took place between India, China and British. The British traders took opium from India to China and tea from China to England.

Question 24.
What was Dust Bowl ?
Answer:
In the 1930s, terrifying Dust storms began to blow over the southern plains, black blizzards rolled in, very often 7,000 to 8,000 ft. high rising like monstrous waves of muddy water, skies darkened, and the dust swept in, people were blinded and choked. These regions were called Dust Bowl.

Question 25.
What do you mean by the term British Agricultural Revolution?
Answer:
It was a period of agricultural developments in Britain between 16th century and mid-18th century which saw a massive increase in agricultural production.

Question 26.
In the early 19th century which were the two major commercial crops grown in India?
Answer:
In the early nineteenth century, indigo and opium were two of the major commercial crops.

Question 27.
How did Britain react when Lin Ze-xu announced that Canton was closed to foreign trade ?
Answer:
Britain declared war, when Lin Ze-xu announced that Canton was closed to foreign trade. ‘

Peasant and Farmers Class 9 Extra Questions Short Answer Type Questions

Question 1.
Why did the farmers feel the need to Introduce mechanisation in agriculture during the Napoleonic wars ?
Answer:
During the Napoleonic wars, prices of food grains were high, and farmers expanded production vigorously. Fearing a shortage of labour, they began buying the new threshing machines that had cgpie into the market. They complained of the insolvency of labourers, their drinking habits and the difficulty of making them work. The machines, they thought, would help them reduce their dependence on labourers.

Question 2.
Discuss the effect of Agricultural Revolution on different sections of people in English countryside.
Answer:
The coming of modern agriculture in England led to many different changes. The open fields disappeared, and the customary rights of peasants were undermined. The richer farmers expanded grain production, sold this grain in the world market, made profits, and became powerful. The poor left their villages in large numbers. Some went from Midlands to the southern countries where jobs were available, others to the cities. The . income of labourers became unstable, their jobs insecure, their livelihoods precarious.

Question 3.
What do you know about the tea trade of the English East India Company ?
Answer:
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.

Question 4.
How did the western merchants finance the tea trade ?
Answer:
The western merchants 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. It was believed that a loss of treasure would impoverish the nation and deplete its wealth. 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.

Question 5.
‘Over the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries the English countryside changed dramatically.’ Explain.
Answer:
Over the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries the English countryside changed dramatically. Before this time, in large parts of England the countryside was open. It was not partitioned into enclosed lands privately owned by landlords. It was all open fields and common lands. After the mid-eighteenth century the Enclosure Movement swept through the countryside, changing the English landscape forever. Between 1750 and 1850, 6 million acres of land was enclosed.

Question 6.
Why were the farmers and landlords of England greatly alarmed in 1830 ?
Answer:

  • The landlords and farmers were greatly alarmed because they were receiving
    threatening letters from a mysterious person called Swing. Most of these letters were signed in the name of captain swing.
  • The people were angry because the landlords began to use threshing machine leading to the unemployment of labourers and loss of their livelihood.
  • In 1830, a threshing machine was destroyed. There were riots which also alarmed the farmers.

Question 7.
Explain any three reasons f§*r the increasing demand for the production of wheat in the nineteenth century USA.
Answer:
Three reasons for the increasing demand for the production of wheat in the nineteenth century USA were :

  • 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 for wheat increased, wheat prices rose, encouraging the farmers to grow wheat.
  • The spread of the railways made it easier to transport the grain from wheat-growing regions to the eastern coast for export.
  • During the First World War, when Russian supplies of wheat was cut off and the USA, had to feed Europe, US President Wilson called upon the farmers to respond to the need of the time. (Any three points)

Question 8.
Which innovations helped farmers to increase agricultural production in England ?
Answer:
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.

Farmers at this time continued to use the simple innovations in agriculture that had become common by the early eighteenth century. It was 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.

Question 9.
State any three features of the ‘Open Field’ system which prevailed in England in the 18th and early 19th century.
Answer:
Three features of the Open Field were :

  • Before this period, 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. Every peasant had a mix of good and bad land.
  • Beyond the strips of cultivation lay the common land. All villagers had access to the common. Here they pastured their cows and grazed sheep, collected food, fuel and fodder and a variety of fruits. They fished in the rivers and ponds and hunted rabbits in common forests.
  • For the poor, the common land was very necessary for survival. It supplemented their meagre income, sustained their cattle and helped them tide over bad times when the crops failed. (Any three points)

Question 10.
Which system was introduced by the British to make the unwilling cultivators produce opium ? How did this system work ?
Answer:
The unwilling cultivators were made to produce opium by the British through a system of advances. In the rural areas of Bengal and Bihar, there were many poor peasants. They never had enough to survive. It was difficult for them to pay rent to the landlord or to buy food and clothing. The government’s opium agents advanced money to them through the headmen of their village. They felt tempted to accept it, hoping to meet their immediate needs and pay back the loan later. But the loan tied the peasant to the headmen and through him to the government. 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.

Question 11.
Discuss why the British Parliament passed the Enclosure Acts.
Answer:
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 forever. Between 1750 and 1850, 6 million acres of land was enclosed. The British Parliament no longer watched this progress from a distance. It passed 4,000 Acts legalising these Enclosures.

Question 12.
Why did the whole region of the Great Plains become a dust bowl ?
Answer:
When wheat cultivation had expanded dramatically in the early 20th 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. In the 1930s, terrifying dust storms began to blow over the southern plains of America. Black blizzards rolled in, very often 7,000 to 8,000 feet high, rising like monstrous waves of muddy water. The American dream of a land of plenty had turned into a nightmare.

Question 13.
‘The conflict between the British government, peasants and local traders continued as long as opium production lasted.’ Explain.
Answer:
By 1773, the British government in Bengal had established a monopoly to trade in opium. No one else was legally permitted to trade in the product. By the 1820s, the British found to their horror that opium production in their territories was rapidly declining, but its production outside the British territories was increasing.

It was being produced in Central India and Rajasthan, within princely states that were not under British control. In these regions, local traders were offering much higher prices to peasants and exporting opium to China. In fact, armed bands of traders were found carrying on the trade in the 1820s. To the British this trade was illegal: it was smuggling, and it had to be stopped. Government monopoly had to be retained.

It therefore instructed its agents posted in the princely states to confiscate all opium and destroy the crops. This conflict between the British government, peasants and local traders continued as long as opium production lasted.

Question 14.
What were the consequences of expansion of wheat agriculture in the Great plains ?
Answer:
The consequences of expansion of wheat agriculture in the Great plains were :

  • As the skies darkened, and .(he 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. (Any three)

Question 15.
Discuss the westward expansion of the white settlers in America. How did it lead to a destruction of American Indians ?
Answer:
(a) 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.
(b) The westward expansion of settlers in the USA led to a complete destruction of American Indians who were pushed westwards, down the Mississippi river, and then further west.
(c) 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.

Peasant and Farmers Class 9 Extra Questions Long Answer Type Questions

Question 1.
What were the reasons for the Opium War? What were the results of the war?
Answer:
The main reasons for the opium war were :

  • In 1839, the Chinese Emperor sent Lin-Ze-xu to Canton as a Special Commissioner with instructions to stop the opium trade.
  • After he arrived in Canton in the spring of 1839, Lin arrested 1,600 men involved in the trade and confiscated 11,000 pounds of opium
  • He forced the factories to hand over their stocks of opium, burnt 20,000 crates of opium and blew the ashes to the wind.
  • When he announced that Canton was closed to foreign trade Britain declared war. The result of the opium war were :
    Defeated in the Opium War (1837-42), the Chinese were forced to accept the humiliating terms of the subsequent treaties, legalising opium trade and opening China to foreign merchants.

Question 2.
How were the poor affected by the enclosure movement ?
Answer:

  • When a land became enclosed, it 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 not collect apples and berries, or hunt small animals for meat. Everything belonged to the landlords and the poor had to pay the price for everything they availed.
  • In many places, the poor were displaced from their land. Therefore, they tramped in search of work.
  • Earlier, it was common for labourers to live with their landowners. They ate at the master’s table, and helped their master through the year, by doing a variety of odd jobs.
  • By 1800, this practice began to disappear. Labourers were being paid wages and employed only during—the harvest time.

Question 3.
How did mechanisation of agriculture affect the lives of the poor farmers in the USA ?
Answer:
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. But jobs were difficult to find. Mechanisation had reduced the need for labour. And the boom of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries seemed to have come to an end by the mid- 1920s. After that, 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.

Question 4.
Describe about the letters that were sent by Captain Swing to the farmers.
Answer:
On 1 June 1830, a farmer in the north-west of England found his barn and haystack reduced to ashes by a fire that started at night. In the months that followed, cases of such fire were reported from numerous districts. At times only the rick was burnt, at other times the entire farmhouse. Then on the night of 28 August 1830, a threshing machine of a farmer was destroyed by labourers in East Kent in England. In the subsequent two years, riots spread over southern England and about 387 threshing machines were broken. Through this period, farmers received threatening 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. Alarmed landlords feared attacks by armed bands at night, and many destroyed their own machines. Government action was severe. Those suspected of rioting were rounded up. 1, 976 prisoners were tried, nine men were hanged, 505 transported – over 450 of them to Australia – and 644 put behind bars.

Question 5.
How did the British make the Chinese addicted to opium ?
Answer:
The British make the Chinese addicted to opium by using following ways :

  • The Portuguese had introduced opium into China where it was used for medical purposes in very small quantity. Opium was however, known primarily for its medical properties and used in minuscule quantities for certain types of medicines,
  • 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. It was unloaded in several sea ports of south-eastern China and carried by local agents to the interiors.
  • People of all classes took to the drug, shopkeepers and peddler’s officials and army men, aristocrats and the poor. As China became a country of opium addicts, British trade in tea flourished.
  • While the English cultivated a taste for Chinese tea, the Chinese became addicted to opium.

Peasant and Farmers Class 9 NCERT Extra Questions

Question 1.
Where did the agriculture revolution first occur?
Answer:
The first agriculture revolution was started in England, in 1830.

Question 2.
Describe about the letters that were sent by Captain Swing to the farmers.
Answer:
On 1 June 1830, a farmer in the north-west of England found his barn and haystack reduced to ashes by a fire that started at night. In the months that followed, cases of such fire were reported from numerous districts. At times only the rick was burnt, at other times the entire farmhouse. Then on the night of 28 August 1830, a threshing machine of a farmer was destroyed by labourers in East Kent in England. In the subsequent two years, riots spread over southern England and about 387 threshing machines were broken. Through this period, farmers received threatening 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. Alarmed landlords feared attacks by armed bands at night, and many destroyed their own machines. Government action was severe. Those suspected of rioting were rounded up. 1, 976 prisoners were tried, nine men were hanged, 505 transported – over 450 of them to Australia – and 644 put behind bars.

Question 3.
Explain the concept open fields and common fields given to the farmers.
Answer:
Before the 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.

Question 4.
How did the concept of open fields change to enclosed fields?
Answer:
In some parts of England, this economy of open fields and common lands had started changing 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.

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.

Question 5.
What were the main causes for the enclosure of lands?
Answer:
Unlike the sixteenth-century enclosures that promoted sheep farming, the land being enclosed in the late eighteenth century was for grain production.

The new enclosures were happening in a different context; they became a sign of a changing time.
From the mid-eighteenth century, the English population expanded rapidly. 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 food grains to feed the population.

Moreover, Britain at this time was industrializing. 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 food grains in the market. As the urban population grew, the market for food grains expanded, and when demand increased rapidly, food grain prices rose.

By the end of the eighteenth century, France was at war with England. This disrupted trade and the import of food grains from Europe. Prices of food grains in England sky rocketed, encouraging landowners to enclose lands and enlarge the area under grain cultivation. Profits flowed in and landowners pressurised the Parliament to pass the Enclosure Acts.

Question 6.
Comment on the food grain production in the nineteenth century in England.
Answer:
Food-grain production in the past had not expanded as rapidly as the population. In the nineteenth century this did not happen in England. 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. The rest was imported.

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.

Farmers at this time continued to use the simple innovations in agriculture that had become common by the early eighteenth century. It was 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.

We find that farmers in the early nineteenth century used much the same method to improve agriculture on a more regular basis.
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.

Question 7.
What were the effects of the enclosures on farmers?
Answer:
Enclosures filled the pockets of landlords. But the farmers who depended on the open fields and commons suffered drastically. 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.

Question 8.
What was the scenario in USA at the time of common fields in England?
Answer:
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.
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. 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. Still others were expert trappers through whom European traders had secured their supplies of beaver fur since the sixteenth century.

Question 9.
Write about the westward movement of white settlers and its impacts.
Answer:
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. But this meant that the American Indians had to be cleared from the land. 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. In subsequent decades this region became a major wheat-producing area of America.

Question 10.
Comment on the wheat production in USA during the First World War.
Answer:
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. Russian supplies of wheat were cut off and the USA had to feed Europe. US President Wilson called upon farmers to respond to the need of the time. ‘Plant more wheat, wheat will win the war,’ he said.

In 1910, about 45 million acres of land in the USA was under wheat. Nine years later, the area had expanded 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.

Question 11.
How was the advent of new technology helpful to the farmers?
Answer:
The dramatic expansion of agriculture 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. When they entered the mid-western prairie, the simple ploughs the farmers had used in the eastern coastal areas of the USA proved ineffective.

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, some of them 12 feet long. Their front rested on small wheels and they were hitched on to six yokes of oxen or horses. 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.

Once the crop had ripened it had to be harvested. Before the 1830s, the grain used to be harvested with a cradle or sickle. At harvest time, hundreds of men and women could be seen in the fields cutting the crop. In1831, 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.

For the big farmers of the Great Plains these machines had many attractions. The prices of wheat were high and the demand seemed limitless. The new machines allowed these big farmers to rapidly clear large tracts, break up the soil, remove the grass and prepare the ground for cultivation. The work could be done quickly and with a minimal number of hands. With power-driven machinery, four men could plough, seed and harvest 2,000 to 4,000 acres of wheat in a season.

Question 12.
What was the effect of the new machines on the farmers?
Answer:
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.

But jobs were difficult to find. Mechanisation had reduced the need for labour. And the boom of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries seemed to have come to an end by the mid-1920s. After that, 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.

Question 13.
Where did Opium come from?
Answer:
When the British conquered Bengal, they made a determined effort to produce opium in the lands under their control. As the market for opium expanded in China, larger volumes of opium flowed out of Bengal ports. Before 1767, no more than 500 chests (of two maunds each) were being exported from India. Within four years, the quantity trebled. A hundred years later, in 1870, the government was exporting about 50,000 chests annually. Supplies had to be increased to feed this booming export trade. But this was not easy.

For a variety of reasons, they were unwilling to turn their fields over to poppy. First, the crop had to be grown on the best land, on fields that lay near villages and were well manured. On this land peasants 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, 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. 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. Finally, the price the government paid to the cultivators for the opium they produced was very low. It was unprofitable for cultivators to grow opium at that price.

Question 14.
How were the unwilling cultivators made to produce Opium?
Answer:
Unwilling cultivators were made to produce opium through a system of advances. In the rural areas of Bengal and Bihar, there were large numbers of poor peasants. They never had enough to survive. It was difficult for them to pay rent to the landlord or to buy food and clothing.

From the 1780s, such peasants found their village headmen (mahato) giving them money advances to produce opium. When offered a loan, the cultivators were tempted to accept, hoping to meet their immediate needs and pay back the loan at a later stage. But the loan tied the peasant to the headman and through him to the government.

It was the government opium agents who were advancing the money to the headmen, who in turn gave it to the cultivators. 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. He had no option of planting the field with a crop of his choice or of selling his produce to anyone but the government agent. And he had to accept the low price offered for the produce.

Question 15.
What other ways the problem of opium production could be solved?
Answer:
The problem could have been partly solved by increasing the price of opium. But the government was reluctant to do so. It wanted to produce opium at a cheap rate and sell it at a high price to opium agents in Calcutta, who then shipped it to China. This difference between the buying and selling price was the government’s opium revenue. 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. In regions around Benaras, cultivators began giving up opium cultivation.

They produced sugarcane and potatoes instead. Many cultivators sold off their crop to travelling traders (pykars) who offered higher prices. By 1773, the British government in Bengal had established a monopoly to trade in opium. No one else was legally permitted to trade in the product. By the 1820s, the British found to their horror that opium production in their territories was rapidly declining, but its production outside the British territories was increasing.

It was being produced in Central India and Rajasthan, within princely states that were not under British control. In these regions, local traders were offering much higher prices to peasants and exporting opium to China. In fact, armed bands of traders were found carrying on the trade in the 1820s. To the British this trade was illegal: it was smuggling and it had to be stopped. Government monopoly had to be retained. It therefore instructed its agents posted in the princely states to confiscate all opium and destroy the crops.

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