Peasants and Farmers – Class 9 IX – History Social Science – Textbook NCERT Solutions



Q1. Draw a timeline from 1650 to 1930 showing the significant agricultural changes which you have read about in this chapter.

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Ans. –

TimelineAgricultural Cahnges
•1660• Farmers in many parts of England began growing turnip and clover.
•1750• More and more foodgrains were grown.
•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.
•1870• Great plains across the River Mississippi became a major wheat-producing area of America.
•1930s• Terrifying dust storms began to blow over the southern plains.


Q2. Fill in the following table with the events outlined in this chapter. Remember, there could be more than one change in a country.

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CountryChange which occurredWho lostWho won
EnglandOpen fields and
commons were
poor peopleLand lords
United StatesEntire landscape
was converted into agricultural belts
Local tribes/ American IndiansWhite Americans




Q1. Explain briefly what the open field system meant to rural people in eighteenth-century England. Look at the system from the point of view of
• A rich farmer
• A labourer
• A peasant woman.

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Ans. • A rich farmer: The open field system provided an opportunity to the rich farmers to enclose the best pastures for their own cattle. In the 16th century, the price of wool went up in the world market. Hence, rich farmers planned to expand wool production by improving their sheep breeds and ensuring good feed for them. Soon they started controlling large areas of land in compact blocks to allow improved breeding. They enclosed common land and built hedges around their holdings to separate their property from that of others. They drove out villagers from the commons. They also prevented them from entering the enclosed fields.
• A labourer: For labourers, open fields were essential for their survival. Here they pastured their cows and grazed their sheep, collected fuelwood for fire and berries and fruit for food. They fished in the rivers and ponds, and hunted rabbit in common forests. It supplemented their
meagre income, sustained their cattle, and helped them tide over bad times when crops failed.
• A peasant woman: Peasant women used the open fields for grazing their cattle, gathering fruit and fuel wood.

Q2. Explain briefly the factors which led to the enclosures in England.

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Ans. The factors which led to the enclosures in England are given below:
(i) In the 16th century, the price of wool went up in the world market. This encouraged the rich farmers to expand wool production to earn profits. For this, they began to enclose common land where they could easily improve their sheep breeds and ensure good feed for them.
(ii) From the mid-eighteenth century, the population of England expanded rapidly. This meant an increased demand for foodgrains to feed the growing population. This encouraged landowners to enclose lands and enlarge the area under grain cultivation.
(iii) By the end of the 18th century, France was at war with England. This disrupted trade and the import of foodgrains from Europe. Prices of foodgrains in England soared high, encouraging landowners to enclose lands for grain cultivation.
(iv) The growing industrialisation and urbanisation of England too became a factor for enclosing more and more open lands.
(v) Enclosures were essential to make long-term investments on land and plan crop rotations to improve the soil.

Q3. Why were threshing machines opposed by the poor in England?

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Ans. Threshing machines were opposed by the poor in England due to the following reasons:
(i) The introduction of threshing machines encouraged land-owners to reduce their dependence on labourers. Now landowners tried to cut wages and the number
of workmen they employed. This aggravated the miseries of the poor.
(ii) Unemployment spread among the poor. They tramped from village to village, and those with uncertain jobs lived in fear of a loss of their livelihood.
(iii) For the poor the threshing machines had become a sign of bad times.

Q4. Who was Captain Swing? What did the name symbolise or represent?

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Ans. Captain Swing was a mythic name used in threatening letters written to English landlords against the use of threshing machines and their reluctance to employ labourers.
The name of Captain Swing spread panic among the landowners. Many of them destroyed their threshing machines fearing attacks by armed bands at night.

Q5. What was the impact of the westward expansion of settlers in the USA?

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Ans. (i) The white settlers got settled on the Appalachian plateau by driving away the American Indians. Then they moved into the Mississippi valley between 1820 and 1850. They slashed and burnt forests, pulled out the stumps, cleared the land for cultivations 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 and harvested good crops.
After 1860s, the white settlers swept into the great plains across the river Mississippi. In subsequent decades this region became a major wheat-producing area of America,
(iii) From the late 19th 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 even bigger. As the demand increased, wheat prices rose, encouraging farmers to produce more and more wheat. During the First World War the world market boomed. Russian
suppliers 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 hour.
(iv) The westward expansion of the white settlers paved the way for the development of new technologies which made the process of cultivation very effective and time saving.
(v) By the early 20th century, farmers in the great plains were breaking the ground with the help of the new technologies like traders and disc ploughs, clearing vast stretches for wheat production.
( vi) The USA began to dominate the world market in agricultural produce and came to be known as the `bread basket of the world’.

Q6. What were the advantages and disadvantages of the use of mechanical harvesting machines in the USA?

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Advantages: Various mechanical harvesting machines were proved to be a boon for the USA. It was the time when the prices of wheat were high and the demand seemed limitless. The new machines allowed big farmers to rapidly clear large tracts, break up the soil, remove the grass and prepare the ground for cultivation. With the help of these machines the work could be done quickly and with a minimal number of hands. With power-driven machinery, four men could plough, seed and harvest 2000 to 4000 across of wheat in a season.
Disadvantages: These machines were proved to be a bane for the poor farmers because they brought misery in their life. 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 19th and early 20th 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 there was a large surplus which were turned into animal feed. Wheat prices fell and export markets collapsed. This became the cause of the Great Agrarian Depression of the 1930s.

Q7. What lessons can we draw from the conversion of the countryside in the USA from a bread basket to a dust bowl?

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Ans. The expansion of wheat agriculture in the great plains created grave problems. In the 1930s, terrifying dust-storms began to blow over the southern plains. Black blizzards rolled in, very often 7000 to 8000 feet high, rising like monstrous waves of muddy water. This happened 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 20th century, zealous farmers had recklessly uprooted all vegetation, and tractors had turned the soil over, and broken the soil into dust. The whole region had become a dust bowl.
We can draw the following lessons from this incident:
(i) We must respect the ecological conditions of each region.
(ii) We should control our desire to win over the nature. Such a desire can never be fulfilled. But in course of our frantic effort to fulfil such a desire, we can play havoc with the nature by creating ecological imbalance.
(iii) Whatever development we want to bring, must be eco-friendly.
(iv) We must not forget that by imbalancing ecological conditions we endanger our own life.

Q8. Write a paragraph on why the British insisted on farmers growing opium in India.

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Ans. The British insisted on farmers growing opium in India in order to balance their trade with China from where they bought tea and silk for sale in England. The British could buy tea only by paying in silver coins or bullion. This meant an outflow of treasure from England. This created widespead anxiety among the British who 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. Opium was the only commodity which the British could sell in China and persuade the Chinese to buy. Hence, it became essential to grow more and more opium in India. They persuaded Indian farmers to grow opium which they took from India to China and tea from China to England.

Q9. Why were Indian farmers reluctant to grow opium.?

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Ans. There were several reasons behind it:
(i)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.
(ii) There were many cultivators who had no land of their own. To cultivate, they had to pay rent and lease land from landlords. And the rent-charged on good lands near villages was very high.
(iii) 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.
(iv) The price the government paid to the cultivators for the opium they produced was very low.


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