NCERT Peasants and Farmers
Topic– 1: The Coming of Modern Agriculture in England
I. Very Short Answer Type Questions. [1 Mark]
1. What happened in the English countryside in the 1830s?
Ans. Farmers destroyed barn and haystack, farmhouses and threshing machines.
2. Who was Captain Swing?
Ans. It was a mythical name in which letters were signed addressed to the landlords.
3. What action was taken by the government against rioters?
Ans. Those suspected of rioting were severely punished. Around 2000 prisoners were tried, nine men were hanged and over 500 were transported.
4. How did the English countryside change dramatically over the late 18th and 19th centuries?
Ans. Before this time, in large parts of England, the countryside was open. Peasants availed of common lands and forests to get firewood, apples, berries and hunt small animals. Later on, enclosure movement began on a massive scale.
5. How many acres of land were enclosed between 1750 and 1850?
Ans. 6 million acres of land was enclosed.
6. How many Acts were passed by the British parliament?
Ans. It passed 4000 Acts legalising the enclosure movement.
7. What led to the enclosure movement?
Ans. The rapid increase in population, a huge rise in demand for food grains and rising prices of foodgrains led to the enclosure movement.
8. What was the effect of enclosure on landlords?
Ans. The poor could no longer collect their firewood from forests, or graze their cattle on the commons. They could no longer collect apples and berries, or hunt small animals for food. Everything belonged to the landlords, everything had a price which the poor could not afford to pay.
II. Short Answer Type Questions. [3 Marks]
1. Why were the poor farmers of England against the threshing machines? What was the Captain Swing Movement?
Ans. The poor farmers felt the threshing machines would replace people, would deprive them of their livelihood and render them jobless. Captain Swing was a mythical name used in threatening letters, written by workmen against the use of threshing machines by rich farmers.
2. ‘Over the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries the English countryside changed dramatically.’ Explain.
Ans. 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.
3. Explain three factors which led to the Enclosure Movement in England after the mid-eighteenth century.
Ans. The factors which led to the Enclosure Movement in England were : (i) Rapid expansion of population from 7 million in 1750 to 21 million in 1850 and 30 million in 1900. (ii) Increased demand for food grains to feed the growing population. (iii) War with France disrupted trade and import of foodgrains from Europe. Prices in England skyrocketed, 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.
4. Discuss why the British Parliament passed the Enclosure Acts.
Ans. 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. Landlords put pressure on parliament. It passed 4,000 Acts legalising these Enclosures.
5. What was the effect of Enclosure Movement on landlords of England?
Ans. The Enclosure Movement was instrumental in making the rich landlords richer. Due to it, the landlords brought various changes in agricultural methods and technology. The richer farmers expanded grain production, sold this grain in the world market, made profits and became powerful. The poor farmers sold their small land pieces to richer farmers. They left the villages.
6. Enclosure filled the pockets of landlords. What happened to the poor persons who depended on the commons for their survival?
Ans. Enclosures filled the pockets of the rich landlords. When fences came up the enclosed land became the property of one landowner. The poor 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 crop was cut. Everything belonged to the landlord, everything had a price which the poor could not afford to pay. The poor were displaced from the land. They tramped in search of work. From the Midlands, they moved to the southern counties of England.
7. Explain three reasons for Captain Swing riots in the English countryside.
Ans. Modern agriculture in England: Use of threshing machines deprived workmen of their livelihood.
Enclosures: These deprived the poor of the use of the commons which was essential for their survival. The Enclosures barred them from pasteurizing their cows, collecting fruits and berries, fuelwood, hunting small animals for food etc. All these factors prompted/ induced the poor to start the Captain Swing riots.
III. Long Answer Type Questions. [5 Marks]
1. Discuss the factors that precipitated the Agricultural Depression. What were the consequences of this Depression? How was the Captain Swing Movement related to this Depression?
Ans. 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. The unemployed poor tramped from village to village, and those with uncertain jobs lived in fear of a loss of their livelihood.
The Captain Swing riots spread in the countryside at this time. For the poor, the threshing machines had become a sign of bad times.
2. Explain the factors which led to the enclosures in England?
What was the Enclosure System? Mention any two factors which encouraged the Enclosure system.
Ans. The sixteenth-century enclosures were prompted by sheep farming. The late 18th-century enclosure movement was for more and more grain production.
(i) Between 1750 and 1900, the English population expanded rapidly – 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.
(ii) Britain was fast industrializing. There was a mass migration of people from villages to towns to work in factories. To survive they had to buy food grains in the market. As the urban population multiplied, the market for food grains expanded and food grain prices rose. Thus farmers were encouraged to grow more and more crops. Hence, the enclosure movement.
(iii) By the close of the 18th century, France was at war with England. This disrupted trade and the import of food grains from Europe. Prices of food grains soared encouraging landowners to enclose lands and enlarge the area under grain cultivation.
(iv) As profits multiplied the landowners pressurized the Parliament to pass the Enclosure Acts.
3. Explain any two advantages and two disadvantages of the Enclosure Movement in England.
(i) The Enclosure movement made England self-sufficient in foodgrains. Grain production grew as quickly as population. In 1868 England produced about 80 per cent of the food is consumed.
(ii) Enclosures prompted the landlords to make long-term investments on land and plan crop rotations to improve the soil. Enclosures allowed landlords to expand the land under their control and produce more for the market. Enclosures filled the pockets of landlords and made them very rich.
(i) The poor were hard hit. They could no longer collect their firewood from the forests, or graze their cattle on the commons. They could no longer gather apples, berries, or hunt animals for meat. Everything belonged to the landlords and poor were left helpless and miserable.
(ii) In areas of extensive enclosures, the poor were displaced from the land. Deprived of their customary rights, the poor people tramped in search of work. But nowhere could the poor find secure jobs. Work became insecure, employment uncertain, income unstable. For a large part of the year, the poor had no work.
4. State any four major features of the ‘Open Field’ system which prevailed in England.
Ans. (i) Before this period, in large parts of England, the countryside was open. It was not partitioned into enclosed lands privately owned by landlords.
(ii) Peasants cultivated on strips of land around the village they lived in. Every peasant had a mix of good and bad land.
(iii) 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.
(iv) 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. Poor peasants led a comfortable and secure life.