[Note: Work in progress: not for quotation or attribution without the written permission from the author.]
The Raw and the Simmered:
Environmental Contexts of Food and Agrarian Relations in the Gangetic Plain
(1)
James R. Hagen

Frostberg State University
E-mail: j_hagen@fre.fsu.umd.edu
Peasant Symposium Draft copy, May 1997

[The Distinctive Character of Gangetic Agricultural History] [Agricultural Changes Since the Eighteenth Century] [Comparisons Among Gangetic Regions, 1600-1980]

The contrast between early Gangetic agriculture and that of early northern China offers some useful insights for understanding later Gangetic trends and events. Recent works by China scholars such as Kang Chao, Dwight Perkins, Cho-yun Hsu, and E. N. Anderson, have suggested strong relationships among early high population densities, the creation of intensive farming techniques. and styles of cuisine. (2) The early large population in the Hwang He River basin and delta of northern China, with its "self-fertilizing" loess soil. resulted in the deforestation of the Loess Plateau watershed. A long-term. historical trajectory was thus set in place of intensive agricultural input management. The early culinary styles of northern China consisted of intensively preparing foods prior to cooking and then, because of a lack of plentiful firewood, rapidly par-cooking in a wok that requires only grass and crop residues to fuel the short fire and cook the near raw food. The Chinese case is well documented by others. This paper proposes a contrasting case for the Gangetic Plain: the simmered food.

The Gangetic Plain(3) nurtured a less intensive mode of crop input management which was due to the early formation of agricultural systems within an abundant forest and biomass context of adjacent agriculture, unlike China, and without the early population pressure that occurred in China. The householder's culinary styles in the early Gangetic Plain entailed intensively preparing foods before cooking but then using a significantly larger requirement of slow burning fuel, than in China, for steady simmering processes of preparing pulses, spices, and vegetables with the oil of clarified butter, or ghee, as well as

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fuel for a preparation of either rice or wheat/millet. The preparation of ghee, itself is fuel intensive, in contrast to the absence of milk and milk products in China.(4)

Gangetic cultivators, prior to the nineteenth century, relied on increasing production through the extension of cultivated area rather than intensifying production per plot as in early northern China. This Gangetic style of agriculture worked very well as long as population remained moderate and adjacent forest and biomass remained plentiful. (5) Such extensive systems gave cultivators options and choices as to how much to produce at any one season and this no doubt offered flexibility in their relations with overlords seeking rent/tribute from their surplus. As I will suggest later, the decline in this flexibility during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries would alter the context of agrarian relations.

Prior to the sixteenth century, Gangetic forest and biomass declined imperceptibly as population increased gradually There was not the compelling rise in population density, as in early China, that might have signaled and forced a grand system change at that time. However. with the slow decline in adjacent biomass gangetic cultivators did begin to change. But without strong signals indicating their changed environmental context. cultivators were lulled into. in a sense, a scavenger-input, and incremental coping version of the former system. Since the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, cultivators in this new system skillfully adapted to a more heavy reliance on short-term, risk-averting strategies that are commonly described in world peasant literature. They had now only marginal soils left into which they could extend cultivation and were now, in a sense, with their backs against the wall regarding natural resource inputs.

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This new mode of agriculture represents the type of agricultural system found in the plain during the past century. When a compelling rise in population density did occur in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. the resources for inputs were so meager. as illustrated by the rapid increase in the use of cow dung for household fuel instead of crop manure, that when the ponderous agrarian, political-tenurial framework of the colonial period combined with these conditions the total effect weighed too heavily upon the agricultural population to allow for the needed grand system change in the mode of resource input management. As land-use statistics show, the rich context of adjacent biomass was lost by the time of the compelling increase in population density during the past century. This historical timing was a fateful cruel trick and would have tragic consequences for the Gangetic Plain. Of course these consequences varied throughout the plain and later I will trace the course of changes in three main regions, concluding with that of Bihar.

Before looking into the details of the story, we must understand here that in the history Of world agriculture Gangetic India was perhaps incomparable. Over the millennia there was never a "know-how" problem regarding how to intensify product on the same plot. There was never a time when indigenous knowledge of agriculture was not first-rate in the world. Remember, transplanted, wet rice was first designed and used in the world, during the sixth century B.C.E., in the amply watered fields below the Rajgir Hills in Patna District in hundreds of ancient villages such as Nalanda and Aungari. Rather, the issue in this paper is that even with this sophisticated knowledge base over time, there still needed to be a compelling historical force to redirect the modes of cultivation on a day-to-day level. And that would not happen.

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The Distinctive Character of Gangetic Agricultural History

Recent archaeological studies have stressed that early technology may not have radically changed the distribution of vegetation as much as previously thought. (6) The earl impact of mining and the use of iron tools was often considered as preconditioning the patterns of settlement and state formation during the first millennium B.C.E. This view is now softened with greater emphasis on the critical development of strong social and political institutions.(7)

Ghosh and Lal have suggested that the process of forest clearance was gradual. and in stride with the needs of the patterns of settlement expansion, rather than a process of massive clearance following the introduction of iron tools. Lal views this slow clearance process as the historical norm until the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, when a faster rate of clearance began. (8) This slower clearance process indicates a relatively large area of forest, woods, and natural vegetation that was interpatterned with natural topography and human settlements.(9)

To help interpret these land use data, I draw upon a body of literature developed since the 1960s termed "agricultural intensification theory." (10) This literature stems from Ester Boserup who made population change an independent variable rather that one that was dependent on changes in agricultural technology, organization, and production. For Boserup, agriculture responds to demographic changes by adjusting investment in labor, technology, and land use. This is pushed along by declining marginal returns to labor with the increase of population density. Population density, then, is at least one important driver of agricultural change. Therefore, intensification of agriculture occurs either as (1)

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increased investments of labor and improved inputs of nutrients. technology, organization. On existing plots of land. as in early northern China, or as (2) increased investments of labor, and /or these same inputs of new extended plots of land. I would argue that the latter fits best with the evidence available for the Gangetic Plain.

Using statistical data from Mughal records, as interpreted by Irfan Habib and Shireen Moosvi, roughly two-thirds of the Gangetic Plain remained under natural vegetation in 1600 (see Figure). I have discussed elsewhere the ecological benefits, both direct and indirect, from the close juxtaposition of field and forest/woods. One example is that with the decline of forest and woods, and therefore fuelwood, cow dung became increasingly used for heating fuel and thus potentially diverted from use as cropping manure. Habib notes that in 1600 there was a liberal use of cow dung as crop manure except in the Delhi-Agra area.(11)

The cultivator in 1600 had productive options in his negotiations with overlords which would be unavailable to his modern counterparts. Options of being able to regulate production were virtually eliminated with the decline of the rich biomass environment.

Agricultural Changes Since the Eighteenth Century

With the slow decline in the natural area of biomass since the seventeenth century, the following eight features seem to characterize the new mode of cultivation. The first was the decline in crop nutrition that accompanied less use of the option of manuring cereal grains as well as the decline of indirect manuring within an adjacent, abundant biomass. (12) This affected the general nutrient level, humus content, and moisture level of the plain. (13) Scarce manure and sweepings were increasingly used only for household gardenplots and

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specialty crops such as betel leaf, sugarcane, or opium. (14) The decline of staple crop manuring seemed to follow a spatial pattern of first appearing in the populous wet regions and then throughout the less populous dry zones. (15) By 1945, the lack of staple crop manuring had become so commonplace that the colonial government cited it as one of the chief reasons for low production, while at the same time not recognizing that it was formerly part of the agricultural system. For example, in the words of the Bengal Famine Inquiry Commission's final report:

"Hitherto the use of manures has been confined largely to the more profitable among the cash crops. such as tobacco, sugarcane, and vegetables, and the amount of manure applied to the land on which the main crops are grown has been very small." (16)

A second feature was increased intercropping of pulses with cereal grain. Instead of manuring staple crops, cultivators adapted by stressing their traditional technique of intercropping which contributed nitrogen to the soil and also worked as a valuable hedge against total crop failure because drought resistant pulses would survive when the grain did not.(17)

Thirdly, cultivators in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries also adapted to much greater use of double or multi-cropping, that is, cropping in different seasons, often but not always in the same plot. (18) Although it was a nutrient-draining practice, it was seen as an important short-term hedge against crop failure.(19)

A fourth feature in the new style of agriculture was that livestock was afforded both added importance and less to eat. The resource base for them to eat was greatly reduced. (20) But the cultivator increased his need for their power to turn newly extended marginal lands, as a source for special crop manure, and as a source of household fuel.(21)

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A fifth feature was that as cultivators tightened their use of manure and sweepings during the nineteenth century. they also decreased their own production of seed grain. Seed production soon lost its urgency in the new agricultural style when the trade-off was some increase in food production. Cultivators. with a short term view, now easily took the seed credit offered by their moneylenders and/or landlords, as this was an integral part of a larger relationship of credit bonding between these parties.(22)

A sixth point was the loss of indigenous irrigation within a context of increasing need tor such. The primary obstacle to more effective, and maintenance of irrigation was the trend in greater subdivision of land rights as by then rigidly defined in the new colonial legal regime. The increased number of persons responsible through subdivision caused greater disrepair in the irrigation systems. This was most acute in the deeply structured land systems of the eastern region where irrigation systems operated within produce rent areas such as in Bihar. Such areas were profit-related to good irrigation maintenance. Therefore when produce rents were commuted in the 1 9~0s there began a trend of these landlords disregarding their irrigation responsibilities.(23)

A seventh feature was a trend toward regional crop specialization rather than local mixed cropping. (24) Where formerly there was a mix in varieties of plants, such as cotton, sugarcane, grains, oilseeds, and pulses. there now became more monocropping determined by how a particular soil type faired under the new low levels of nutrient and organic inputs. (25)

A final feature in the new context of tightened resources and urgent production goals was a destruction in the cultivators option of leaving plots fallow. (26) This no-fallowing trend was heightened, at the end of the nineteenth century, which I have proposed and described

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elsewhere. as the optimal geographical extent of cultivation was reached in more and more districts of the plain. Gangetic cultivators. as argued here, had operated their agriculture using the extension of land within a plentiful biomass. They had always worked with the option of building their nutrient and organic soil bases through rotating and resting older lands. (27) This Gangetic heritage was now at an end. (28)

Comparisons Among Gangetic Regions, 1600-1980

With the signs of steadily rising population densities and declining biomass. why didn't Gangetic cultivators change or intensify their styles and systems to the dramatic degree needed to counteract these challenges? The three main regions of the Gangetic Plain. the lower wet region, the middle, mixed region of Bihar, and the upper dry region each experienced the common trends in quite different ways.

The lower, wet region was the most prosperous and successful in 1600. Gifted with natural moisture, soil fertility, and a thriving seagoing export trade, the wet region was self-described as "golden Bengal." Population increased roughly 500 percent between 1600 and 1980 but it did not alert or compel agricultural changes because of the historical timing of the increases. In 1770 a devastating, entitlement famine over the western areas of the region served as a major disincentive for intensification at a crucial point over time w-hich was the beginning of the colonial period. An estimated one-third of the population died in the affected areas. Cultivation was withdrawn from many lands and long fallow areas were created. (29) The tragic event offered a false signal to cultivators and initiated a new round of arable extension. However this time, tribal labor, mainly Santals, recruited from nearby uplands, were used to extend cultivation. (30)

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The 1770 famine for decades to come, masked the true conditions in the region. A number of factors continued to hid the effects of biomass depletion and regionally rising population density. The most important was the continuing existence, until about 1900. of additional culturable land for expansion. A second factor was the continuous string, over centuries. of export-led cash crops. In 1600 these consisted of the famous silky cotton near Dhaka, as well as an export trade in rice, sugar, and ghee. In the eighteenth century indigo became a sensational export, and then jute followed in the nineteenth century. Jute had an additional masking impact. The British introduced a growing demand for jute for their home manufacturing but such extractive trade did not encourage agricultural intensification. It eliminated fertile land areas of food production and locked tenants and wage laborers into poverty given the heavily structured and inequitable land-access systems in East Bengal. In these circumstances, cultivators had no opportunities to respond to signals encouraging water and land intensification.

In the late nineteenth century the British deforested the Irrawaddy Delta of Burma and very cheap rice came to Bengal. Rather than incite competitive rice intensification in Bengal, its effect, at this crucial time, was to muffle such urges. Finally, the more plentiful rainfall of this region allowed for quicker regrowth and therefore at least a minimum of grass and scrub vegetation which was very sparse in the other regions.

After 1900, a number of conditions in the wet region seemed compelling enough to perhaps modify the agricultural system. These were the absence of potentially new lands, the dramatic decline in natural vegetation in non-inundated areas which had been more dependent on adjacent use of the landscape, and the decline in the mortality rate which put population pressure on rural society.

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Why didn't the systems of the wet region change at this point ? One immediate answer was the escape-valve migration of peasants at this time. especially from Mymensingh District, into the riverine areas of Assam. Another answer was the continued availability of cheap rice from Burma. However, it seems that the main reason may be. as James Boyce has suggested, the heavy burden by this time, that existed in the agrarian system and structure in the face of signals to change.(31)

The dry region has had the lowest population density history of the three regions since 1600. It has also had the least to loose by the common rends of the plain. The conventional picture of the dr; region is that of a hard-won agricultural surplus derived from the most drought-prone regions of the plain. At least part of this picture may by misleading.

Two underlying ecological factors contribute to a somewhat different and balanced assessment. Both factors are indicated from the research of scientists and have yet to be integrated into historical explanation. The first is the nature of the different rivers. The silt from high glacier-fed rivers. such as the Ganges and Jumna, having traversed extensive highland areas, gives greater fertility than do the lower hill or lake fed rivers such as those of Rohilkhand and Awadh. This high fertility is also the case with the snow fed alluviums of Haryana and Punjab. (32) This effect has softened the impact of the breakdown in the traditional field-biomass system in these areas.

A second factor affecting the dry region is the specific specie distribution of grasses and livestock. The ecology of grass communities in these areas indicates some of the most advantageous species, for livestock, found in South Asia. Comparable quality grass distributions are only found in the now diary-rich district of former Baroda State in

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Gujarat. Chief among these grasses is the protein-rich, drought resistant jargu grass (Dichanthium annulatum). Its highly palatable and nutritious companion is cenchrus ciliaris. These important grasses are dominant in the dry region and only found in patches elsewhere in the plain. They can survive down to a bare soil extinction and then reappear as an annual. (33) These grasses provided a buffer against the general trend of biomass depletion. The added livestock. however. countered this buffer by creating landscapes of erosion.

The millet/wheat cropping pattern of the dry region restricted population density compared to the rice regions. This gave the dry region a stronger position in its response to the general trends. This was enhanced still further by the tremendous capital investment by the colonial government since the 1830s in canal irrigation works. A final feature that aided the dry region was the more prevalent kind of agrarian-tenurial systems that were lighter in structure and often included owner-cultivators. These light systems reflected the mode of dry grain cultivation with its simpler labor requirements. This may have allowed agriculture to respond more quickly to demographic, market, and environmental forces compared to those of the other regions.

The middle region of Bihar and eastern U.P. was a mixture of the other regions. This mix made it the most vulnerable in the interplay among the trends of biomass depletion, population changes, and arable extension. Its weakness was not being securely wet nor consistently dry. Over the past four centuries, rice continued to be the primary cereal crop. However, rice was always a highly problematic crop because of the insecure monsoon climate in the middle plain. (34) Especially for south Bihar, water management has been of critical importance.

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Rice production allows more calories per unit area to be made available to encourage an increasing population density. (35) Such a context did not prepare the middle region for the head-on meeting of the general trends of the plain. The social context of agriculture has been a combination of the dry and wet regions. However, because of the primacy of rice rural society is therefore more of a reflection of the wet rice agrarian system. Like the wet region, it appears that the labor demands of wet rice encourages a distinction between those that actually ploughed. called chase, and those that did not hold the plough. Like the wet region, most of the mixed region was "permanently settled" in 1793. Therefore. the social context of agriculture for the region represented the very ponderous and thick combination of increasing subdivisions of holdings and the bottom-heavy kind of rural society that stemmed from the labor requirements of wet rice cultivation. However, the middle region seems to have taken this heavy agrarian structure on step further than that found in the wet region. This was perhaps because of the critical necessity of mobilizing water management. Like the wet region. this heavy agrarian structure represents a primary reason that when population densities began to rise at a compelling rate the agricultural systems were not able to respond.

Of the three regions, the middle had the most to loose by depletion of natural vegetation for it was not a cattle breeding area with the nutritious grasses of the western plain. The creation of a savannah landscape was more of a strain on rural society compared with the dry region. Unlike the wet region, most of the middle region did not have a rapid regeneration of at least a scrubland cover of vegetation. The decline of biomass was particularly severe by the end of the nineteenth century at which time most district had reached their optimal extent of cultivated area. Although the middle region

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began with less depletion of total area than the dry region. my land-use reconstructions indicate that by 1890 the middle region had more of its total area in a degraded condition than the dry region.

As elsewhere in the Gangetic Plain. biomass depletion and arable expansion w-ere masked by a continuing supply of culturable lands. As these increasingly marginal soils came to an end, towards the end the nineteenth century, the stark picture of rural social distress began to appear. Tenants and sub-tenants, competing over more and more marginal soil types. began to assert their customary rights against each other and against their overlords. Because the middle region had the most to loose by these processes that were common to the plain, it is not surprising to see that the middle region became the epicenter and most active area of peasant-land conflict in the plain and perhaps in South Asia. (36) Under the former, biomass-abundant style of agriculture, of say 1600, cultivators had the water and nutrient inputs necessary to adjust production needs. They were thus in a stronger bargaining position in their relations with overlords. (37) However, in the new style of input-poor agriculture, evolving during the eighteenth and nineteen centuries, their production elasticity virtually vanished and their bargaining position with overlords became similarly affected. This kind of tightening in the productive options, or productive power, in rural society was a general process and effect throughout the entire Gangetic Plain. (38) All levels of society were affected and the process raised the level of tensions among competing groups. In the 1920s this was the context at least partly responsible for the creation of South Asia's primary peasant organization, the all-India Kisan sabha. (39) Organized first in the south Bihar district of Patna in the middle region.

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ln conclusion, there is reason to believe that undetected below our many constructions of Gangetic agrarian history since 1600 there was a significant shift in the productive options of cultivators. If the history of Gangetic agriculture was to extend cultivation to meet the needs of a growing population, then today s lack prosperity is understandable because although population increased 430 percent between 1600 and 1980, arable was extended only 112 percent

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Footnotes

1. This research has been directly and indirectly affected by my work with a larger project studying changes in land use in South and Southeast Asia for the period 1800 to 1980, and supported by Subcontract No. 19X-43361 C with Duke University under Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Environmental Division, Contract No. DE-AC05-840R21400 with the Department of Energy. Recent research in India was made possible by grants from the Foreign Currencies Program of the Smithsonian Institution and the American Institute of Indian Studies. I gratefully acknowledge the assistance of Edward S. Haynes for organizing district level numeric data from our larger project into the multi-district, zonal format of this study. Early in the formation of this study, l benefited from useful discussions with David Ludden and David Washbrook. I also acknowledge the valuable comments of John F. Richards, Elizabeth P. Flint, Judith Dillion, and Nancy L. Zingrone. Since formulating these interpretations, l have been greatly aided and encouraged by extended discussions with Ester Boserup and Vaclov Smil.

1. For a description of this five year research project, see J.F. Richards, James R. Hagen, and Edward S. Haynes, "Changing Land Use in Bihar, Punjab, and Haryana, 1850- 1970, " Modern Asian Studies 19 (July 1985): 699-732. [BACK]

2. See Kang Chao. Man and Land in Chinese History: An Economic Analysis. Stanford University Press, 1986; Dwight H. Perkins. Agricultural Development in China, 1368-1968. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1969; Cho-yun Hsu. Han Agriculture. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1980; E.N. Anderson. The Food of China. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1988, pp. 1-45. [BACK]

3. For descriptions of Gangetic culinary traditions see Aninda K. Chakravarti, "Diet and Disease: Some Cultural Aspects of Food Use in India." In India: Cultural Patterns and Processes, edited by Allen G. Noble and Ashok K. Dutt. Boulder: Westview Press, 1982, pp. 305-326. [BACK]

4. For example, see Paul Wheatley. "A Note on the Extension of Milking Practices into Southeast Asia during the First Millennium A.D." Anthropos 60 (1965): 577-590; and also Frederick J. Simoons. "The Traditional Limits of Milking and Milk Use in Southern Asia." Anthropos 65 (1970): 547-580. [BACK]

5. In this study, l prefer to use the term "biomass" because it encompasses both plants and animals, or "total dry weight of all living organisms in a given area," rather than a term for plants only such as "phytomass." This more inclusive term is important because as vegetation declines or increases in geographical area so is there also change in density and diversity of animal

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life. See G. Tyler Miller, Jr., Living in the Environment: An Introduction to Environmental Science. (Belmont, Cal.: Wadsworth, 1988), p. A-40. [BACK]

6. Regarding these ideas, l would like to thank the palaeobotanists, K. S. Saraswat and Vishnu-Mittre, at the Birbal Sahni Institute of Palaeobotany, Lucknow, for stimulating discussions during my 1985 visit at that institute. [BACK]

7. See the work of D.K. Chakrabarti, "Concept of Urban Revolution and the Indian Context," Puratattva 6 (1973): 27-32; "Beginning of Iron and Social Change in India," Indian Studies: Past and Present 14 (1973): 329-38. Also, see A. Ghosh. The City in Early Historic India. Simla: Indian Institute of Advanced Study, 1973; and George Erdosy, "Settlement Archaeology of the Kausambi Region," Man and Environment 9 (1985): 66-79. [BACK]

8. For example, see D.P. Agrawal, Cooner Bronze Age in India. Delhi, 1971 N.R. Banerjee, Iron Age in India. Delhi, 1965; and R.S. Sharma. "Material Background of the Origin of Buddhism," in Das Canitai Centenary Volume: ^ Symposium. Delhi, 1965. [BACK]

9. For the extension of this direction of argument toward the process of forest clearance, see N.R. Ray, "Technology and Social Changes in Early Indian History: A Note Posing Theoretical Question," Puratattva 8 (1978): 132-38; Makkan Lal, "Iron Tools, Forest Clearance and Urbanisation in the Makkan Lal. Settlement History and the Rise of Civilization in the Ganga-Yamuna Doab. New Delhi, 1984. [BACK]

10. For some of the applicable literature regarding agricultural intensification, see Ester Boserup. The Conditions of Agricultural Growth. London: George Allen and Unwin, 1965; Ester Boserup. "Environment, Population, and Technology in Primitive Societies." Population and Development Review 2 (1 976): 21-36; Ester Boserup. Population and Technological Changel A Study of Long-Term Trends. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1981; H.C. Brookfield. "Local Study and Comparative Method: An Example from Central New Guinea." Annals of the Association of American Geographers 52 (1962): 242-52; H.C. Brookfield. "Intensification and Disintensification in Pacific Agriculture." Pacific View Point 13 (1972) 30-48; B.L. Turner II, Robert Q. Hanham, and Anthony V. Portararo. "Population Pressure and Agricultural Intensity." Annals of the Association of American Geographers 67 (1977): 384-96; J. Adams, and B. Bumb. "Determinants of Agricultural Productivity in Rajasthan, India: The Impact of Inputs, Technology, and Context on Land Productivity." Economic Development and Cultural Change 27 (1979): 705-22; Edison Dayal.

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"Agricultural Productivity in India: A Spatial Analysis." Annals of the Association of American Geographers 74 (1984): 98-123. [BACK]

11. The baseline date for this study is 1600, the approximate date of the great survey (for purpose of taxation), directed by Abu-al-Fazl ibn Mubarak, an agent of the Mughal Emperor Akbar (1542-1605). On this, see the important sources: Abu-al-Fazl, Ain I Akbari, tr. H. Blochmann (Lahore: Qausain, 1975; reprint of 2nd ea., originally pub. 1927), Irfan Habib, An Atlas of the Mughal Empire: Political and Economic Maps with Detailed Notes, Bibliography and Index (Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1982), and Shireen Moosvi, The Economy of the Mughal Empire c. 1595: A Statistical Study (Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1987). [BACK]

I have used Moosvi's analysis and estimates for both arable and population. Her sources were the statistical tables in the accounts of individual provinces in the third book (Murk abadi) of the Ain I Akbari. I have also used her methodology with the land use numbers reported by Habib for the Aurangzeb period cat 1700. For this, see John F. Richards, James R. Hagen, Elizabeth P. Flint, and Judith B. Dillon, "Environmental History of the Gangetic Plain, 1600-1980," paper presented at the symposium, "The Earth as Transformed by Human Action," Clark University, Worcester, Mass., Oct. 25-30, 1987. [BACK]

12. See J.E.M. Arnold, "Wood Energy and Rural Communities." Natural Resources Forum 3 (1979): 229-252, 241. [BACK]

13. S. Kolade Adeyoju. "The Future of Tropical Agroforestry Systems." Commonwealth Forestry Review 59 (1980): 155- 161. [BACK]

14. See Irfan Habib, The Agrarian System of Mughal India (1556-1707). Bombay: Asia Publishing House, 1963), p. 56, where he draws on the observations of the 17th century travelers, Pelsaert and Ovington. Francisco Pelsaert, "Remonstrantie," c. 1626, tr. Moreland and Geyl, Jahanoir's India. London: Cambridge University Press, 1925, p. 4; J. Ovington, A Voyage to Surat in the Year 1689, edited by H.G. Rawlinson, London, 1929, p. 183; also see P.N. Deogun, "Punjab and Colonization," Indian Forester 68 (1942): 74-81.

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15. See, for example, the lack of staple manuring in the wet zones in the 1810 while light staple manuring was still taking place in the dryer zones in 1838. For the dry zones, see Donald Butler, Outlines of the Topography and Statistics of the Southern Districts of Oudh and of the Cantoment of Sultanpur-Oudh. Calcutta: Bengal Military Orphan Press, 1839, p. 56. For Buchanan (afterwards Hamilton), The History, Antiquities, Topography, and Statistics of Eastern India, edited by R. Montgomery Martin. London: William H. Allen and Co., 1838, Vol. 3, pp. 267-8; Vol. 2, pp. 216, 532; Vol. 1, pp. 293. [BACK]

16. India. The Famine Inquiry Commission: Final Report. Madras: Government Press, 1945, pp. 144-150, esp. 144. [BACK]

17. For descriptions of intercropping, see George A. Grierson, Bihar Peasant Life, Beino a discursive Catalogue of the Surroundings of the People of that Province, with many Illustrations from Photographs taken by the Author. 1885; Reprint ea., Delhi: Cosmo Publications, 1975, pp. 246-251; Francis Buchanan, (afterwards Hamilton). An Account of the Districts of Bihar and Patna in 1811-1812. Patna: Bihar and Orissa Research Society, 1928, vol. 2, pp. 522-525, 776; W.W. Hunter, A Statistical Account of Bengal. London: Trubner and Col., vol. 11, pp. 140-165; F.N. Wright, Memorandum on Agriculture in the District of Cawnpore. Allahabad: Northwestern Provinces and Oudh Government Press, 1877, p. 23; Hifzur Rahman, and Azimuddin Qureshi. "Pulses in Indian Agriculture. " Geographer 30 ( 1 983): 7 5-8 1; Tapan Raychaudhuri, "The Mid-Eighteenth-Century Background." In The Cambridge Economic History of India, Volume Il: c. 1757-1970. Edited by Tapan Raychaudhuri and Dharma Kumar. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1982, pp. 3-35, esp. 16-18. Birendranath Ganguli, Trends of

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Agriculture and Population in the Ganges Valley. London: Methuen and Co., 1938, p. 103. [BACK]

18. Past assertions that the incidence of famine increased under British rule may find support in our line of reasoning. See William Digby, Prosoerous British India. London: Allen, 1901; B. M. Bhatia, Famines in India. Bombay: Asia Publishing House, 1963; Ira Klein, "Population and Agriculture in Northern India, 1872-1921." Modern Asian Studies 8 (1974): 191-216. [BACK]

19. For examples, see Radhakamal Mukerjee, Fields and Farmers in Oudh. Madras: Longmans, 1929, p. 13; H.M. Leake, "The Trend of Agricultural Development in the United Provinces." Agricultural Journal of India 18 (1923): 10-22; P. Dayal, "The Agricultural Geography of Bihar." Ph.D. dies., London University, 1947, p. 263; Birendranath Ganguli, Trends of Agriculture and Population in the Ganges Valley. London: Methuen and Co., 1938, pp. 42-57, 103, 150-168; S. R. Bose, A Study in Bihar Agriculture.Calcutta: F. K. L. Mukhopadhyay, 1967, p. 8. [BACK]

20. See Grierson, "Bihar Peasant Life," p. 243. [BACK]

21. For examples, see Voelcker, pp. 191-207. MacKenna, J. "Notes on the Fodder Problem in India," Agricultural Journal of India 11 (1914): 38-58; India. The Famine Inquiry Commission: Final Report. Madras: Government Press, 1945, pp. 19, 176- 193. Hopper, W. David. "Seasonal Labour cycles in an Eastern Uttar Pradesh Village." Eastern Anthropologist 8 India. Kurokshetra: Vishal Publications, 1974, pp. 263-65. Leake, H. Martin. The Foundations of Indian Agriculture. Cambridge: W. Heffer, 1923, pp. 39-69. Mujumdar, N. A. "Cow Dung as Manure." Economic Weekly 12 (1960): 74344. Venkatraman, R. B. "The Indian Village, Its Past, Present, Future." Agriculture and Livestock in India 7 (1938): 702-710. [BACK]

22. In 1890, John Voelcker, after touring the Gangetic Plain, observed that "the root of the mischief lies in the system by which the cultivator is not his own seed merchant, but is entirely dependent on the baniya, mahajan, or similar individual of the money-lending class. These men supply the raiyat with seed, charging interest at an exorbitant rate, for they know that he must have seed or else he cannot grow his crop. The accounts between merchant and cultivator, thus begun over seed transactions, are seldom allowed to lapse, and often assume enormous proportions, leading to mortgaging of land and other evils." Voelcker, "Improvement of Indian Agriculture," p. 236, see also pp. 237-240. For additional examples of the decline of cultivator seed production, see C. E. R. Girdlestone, Report of Past Famines in the NorthWestern Provinces. Allahabad: Northwestern Provinces and Oudh

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Government Press, 1868, p. 11; India. The Famine Inquiry Commission: Final Report. Madras: Government Press, 1945, Appendix lil, "Rural Credit and Indebtedness," Evidence, pp. 459-469; India. Government of Bihar and Orissa. The Bihar and Orissa Provincial Banking Inquiry Committee, 1929-30. Patna: Government Press, 1930, Vol. 2, Evidence, pp. 501-519. [BACK]

23. Buchanan, Francis (afterwards Hamilton). An Account of the District of Shababad in 1812- 13. Patna: Bihar and Orissa Research Society, 1934, p. 321.
Sengupta, Nirmal. "The Indigenous Irrigation Organization in South Bihar." Indian Economic and Social History Review 17 (1980): 157- 187.
Chaudhuri, Binay Bhushan. "Movement of Rent in Eastern India 1793-1930. Indian Historical Review 3 (1978): 33-64.
India. Report of the Indian Famine Commission (1878-80). Calcutta: Government Printing, 1880, Chapter 5.
India. Report of the Indian Irrigation Commission, 1901 -03. Calcutta: Government Printing, 1904, pp. 162-63.
India. Report of the Royal Commission on Agriculture in India. London, 1927, Evidence, Vol. 13, p. 289. [BACK]

24. For example, see my description of the geographical distribution of crops for Patna District in 1811. James R. Hagen, "Indigenous Society, The Political Economy, and Colonial Education in Patna District: A History of Social Change from 1811 to 1951 in Gangetic North India." Ph.D. dissertation, University of Virginia, 1981, pp. 130-200. [BACK]

25. In recent decades, the World Bank has consistently encouraged this trend, which usually involves increasing exportable cash crops in Third World lands as the most 'rational' development policy despite the very risky consequence of losing lands that had produced subsistence crops. The history of Gangetic agriculture indicates how this monocropping trend can be partly the product of growing soil impoverishment. Export-led, cash-monocropping is facing growing criticism due to the strong shift toward concern for sustainability in both the economic and environmental dimensions of development. For example, see Michael Redclift, Sustainable Development: Exploring the Contradictions. (London: Methuen, 1987), p. 57. [BACK]

26. Habib, Irfan. "Agrarian System," p. 53.
Bose, S. R. A Study of Bihar Agriculture. Calcutta: F. K. L. Mukhopadhyay, 1967, p. 8. [BACK]

27. Buttler, Donald. Outlines of the Topography and Statistics of the

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Southern Districts of Oudh and of the Cantoment of Sultanpur-Oudh. Calcutta: Bengal Military Orphan Press, 1839, p. 56. Voelcker, pp. 36-37, 232-234. Ganguli, B. Trends of Agriculture and Population in the Ganges Valley, p. 6. Moreland, W.H. The Agriculture of the United Provinces. Allahabad: Government Printing, 1910, pp. 13-26. [BACK]

28. See Voelcker, "Improvement of Indian Agriculture," p. 38. [BACK]

29. See Hemendra Prasad Ghose, The Famine of 1770, (Calcutta: The book Co., 1943); Nani Gopal Chaudhuri, "Some of the Results of the Great Bengal and Bihar Famine of 1770," Indian Historical Congress, Proceedings 12 (1949): 239-49; Kali Charan Ghosh, Famines in Bengal, 1770-1943, (Calcutta: India Associated Publishing Co., 1944; N.K. Sinha, "The Famine of 1769-70 (b.s. 1176-1177)," Bengal Past and Present, 77 (July-December, 1958): 120-31. [BACK]

30. See Binay Bhushan Chaudhuri, "Agricultural Growth in Bengal and Bihar, 1770-1860: Growth of Cultivation Since the Famine of 1770." Bengal Past and Present 95 (1976): 290-340. [BACK]

31. See James K. Boyce. Agrarian Impasse in Bengal. Institutional Constraints to Technological Change. Oxford University Press, 1987. [BACK]

32. See Mohammad Shafi, Agricultural Productivity and Regional Imbalances. A Study of Uttar Pradesh. New Delhi: Concept Publishing Company, 1984. [BACK]

33. R.O. Whyte. The Grassland and Fodder Resources of India. New Delhi: Indian Council of Agricultural Research, 1964, p. 117; N.L. Bor, and George Taylor. The Grasses of Burma Cevion, India and Pakistan (Excluding Bambuseae). New York: Pergamon Press, 1960, p. 31; P.M. Dabadghao, and K.A. Shankarnarayan. The Grass Cover of India. New Delhi: Indian Council of Agricultural Research, 1973; J. S. Singh, Yang Hanxi, and P.E. Sajise. "Structural and Functional Aspects of Indian and Southeast Asian Savanna Ecosystems." In Ecology and Management of the World's Savannas, edited by J. C. Tothill and J.J. Mott, 34-51. Canberra: Australian Academy of Science, 1985. [BACK]

34. See Francis Buchanan, An Account of the Districts of Bihar and Patna in 1811-1812, (Patna: Bihar and Orissa research Society, 1928), Vol. l, p. 547. [BACK]

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35. For an expression of this idea, see Tom G. Kessinger, Vilyatpur 18481968: Social and Economic Change in a North Indian Village, (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1974), p. 151. [BACK]

36. See Walter Hauser, "The Bihar Provincial Kisan Sabha, 1929-1942: A study of an Indian Peasant Movement," Ph.D. dissertation, University of Chicago, 1961; Arvind N. Das and V. Nilakant, eds., Agrarian relations in India, (Delhi, 1979); Manoshi Mitra, Agrarian Social Structure. Continuity and Change in Bihar, 1786-1820, (New Delhi: Manohar, 1985). [BACK]

37. See Girish Mishra, Agrarian Problems of Permanent Settlement: A Case Study of Chamnaran, (Delhi, 1978). [BACK]

38.. See David Ludden, "Productive Power in Agriculture: A Survey of work on the Local History of British India," in Agrarian Power and Agricultural Productivity in South Asia, eds., Meghnad Desai, Susanne H. Rudolph, and Ashok Rudra, (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1985), pp. 51-99. [BACK]

39. See Anand A. Yang, The Limited Raj: Agrarian Relations in Colonial India, Saran District, 1793-1920, (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1989; also, his "Peasants on the Move: a Study of Internal Migration in India," Journal of Interdisciplinary History 10 (1979): 37-58; and Amit Bhaduri, "A Study in Agricultural Backwardness under Semi-Feudalism," Economic Journal 83 (1973): 120-37. [BACK]

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McEldowney & Hagen

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