The Coming of Modern Agriculture in England
The countryside was open in large parts of England; each villager was allocated strips of
land for cultivation at the beginning of each year.
All villagers had access to the common land where they pastured their cows, collected
fuel wood and hunted.
Rich farmers were eager to improve their sheep breeds and ensure good feed for them
by controlling large areas of land in compact blocks. They began dividing and enclosing
common land and building hedges around their holdings for separating it from that of
They drove out villagers who had small cottages on the commons, and prevented the
poor from entering the enclosed fields.
The British Parliament passed 4,000 Acts legalizing these enclosures.
New Demands for Grain
In the late eighteenth century, land was enclosed for grain production because of
The rapid expansion of the British population and urban migration increased the
demand for food grains.
The prices of food grains increased in England owing to disrupted trade and the
import of food grains from Europe, while France was at war with England.
The landowners enclosed their lands and enlarged the area under grain cultivation and
pressurised the Parliament to pass the Enclosure Acts.
The Age of Enclosures
Grain production grew quickly.
The food-grain production increased because the landlords sliced up pasturelands,
carved up open fields, cut up forest commons, took over marshes, and turned large
areas into agricultural fields.
Enclosures became necessary for making long-term investments on land and plan crop
rotation for improving the soil; and also allow the richer landowners to expand land
under their control and produce more for the market. Impact of Enclosures on the Poor
The poor no longer enjoyed access to the enclosed property of the landowners.
They were displaced from the land and were deprived of their customary rights.
Labourers had to live with their landowners throughout the year, doing a variety of odd
Work became insecure, employment uncertain and income unstable.
Agriculture in America
Till the 1780s, white American settlements were confined to a narrow strip of coastal
land in East America.
There were various nomadic Native American groups who lived by hunting, gathering,
fishing and cultivating.
century: White Americans had moved westward and established control up to
the west coast, displacing local tribes and converting entire landscape into different
The American Indians were forced to sign treaties, give up their land and move
westward by the US government.
The settlers slashed and burnt forests, pulled out the stumps, cleared the land for
cultivation, built log cabins in the forest clearings, erected fences around the fields,
ploughed and sowed the land.
When the soil was impoverished and exhausted in one place, the migrants moved
further west, for exploring new lands and raise a new crop.
The Wheat Farmers
There was a dramatic expansion of wheat production in the USA because–
The urban population of the USA was growing and the export market was
The spread of the railways made it easier to transport the grain from the wheatgrowing regions to the eastern coast for export.
During the First World War Russian supplies of wheat were cut off and the USA
had to feed Europe.
The Coming of New Technology
The settlers modified their implements for meeting their requirements in new lands and
They devised a variety of new ploughs and started using tractors and disk ploughs for
clearing vast stretches for wheat cultivation.
1831: Cyrus McCormick invented the first mechanical reaper for harvesting crops. Early 20
century: Most of the farmers were using combined harvesters for cutting the
Affects of Mechanisation on the Poor
Mechanisation brought misery for the poor.
They had to leave their farms and look for jobs elsewhere as they were unable to repay
the loans to the banks.
Wheat prices fell and export markets collapsed; thus leading to the Great Agrarian
Depression of the 1930s.
1930: Dust storms blew over the Southern plains and damaged livestock, cattle, houses
When wheat cultivation had expanded the farmers recklessly uprooted all vegetation,
and tractors had overturned the soil, and broken the sod into dust.
The Indian Farmer and Opium Production
A regular system of land revenue, increase in revenue rates, and expansion of area
under cultivation was practiced by the British.
The peasants and pastoralists faced problems as cultivation expanded and the area under
forests and pastures declined.
By the end of the 19
century, India was producing indigo, opium, sugarcane, cotton,
jute, wheat and several other crops for export to Europe and England.
The cultivators were unwilling to cultivate opium for a variety of reasons–
Large volumes of opium flowed out of Bengal ports to the Chinese market.
Opium needed the best land which meant that food crops had to be grown on
lower quality of land. This adversely affected the food grain production.
No other crop could be grown on the land on which opium had been grown.
Opium plant was delicate and cultivators had to carefully nurture it.
The price of the government paid to the cultivators for the opium they produced
was very low.
A taste for Tea: The Trade with China
The Confucian rulers of China, the Manchus, were suspicious of all foreign merchants.
The western merchants began an illegal trade of opium with China.
The English cultivated a taste for Chinese tea, while the Chinese became addicted to
The returns from the sale of opium financed the tea purchases in China.
How Were Unwilling Cultivators Made to Produce Opium? The government opium agents provided money to the village headmen, who in turn
gave it to the cultivators.
By taking 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 prices given to the peasants were so low that the peasants began agitating for higher
prices and refused to take advances.
By 1773: The British government in Bengal had established a monopoly in opium trade.
The local traders were offering much higher prices to peasants and exporting opium to
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