2. Man-Land Relations in Pre-colonial Times

Increase in population and needs for defense made a concentration of authority necessary. States were founded with a ruler as head. The costs of governing and defending these states were covered by gifts at first, but soon by levying regular taxes, usually a share in the yield of the cultivated land. This tax reduced the cultivators' land rights.

The centralized states had to employ officials for administration and tax collection, and had to maintain a military force for defense. Often, officials were paid a share of the tax they collected. Especially the officials who worked far away from the capital and those who had to fulfil duties involving expenses (maintaining roads and passes, supporting military forces, etc.) were sometimes granted the taxes from certain areas as remuneration. Such grants comprised the tax from the land only, not the land itself. In the course of time, such grants were made not only for services rendered, but for loyalty and as a favour, and soon given for a lifetime and made hereditary. I n addition, officials obtained cultivation rights on land belonging to the state, but never on peasants lands.

The rulers' increasing financial requirements led to two policies that influenced the man-land relation: strict control of the tax system and measures to cultivate more land.

Strengthening the tax system meant an exact assessment including the use of such criteria as soil quality, etc. so that each cultivator had to pay according to his abilities. Later, taxes had to be paid in cash, too. This also meant the control of tax collectors so that they collected the taxes due, but not more. Thus, the peasantry was to keep strong enough for productive cultivation, and there was an incentive to bring more land under cultivation. The larger the cultivated area, the higher was the food production for the growing population including the military forces, and the larger the rulers' share in the produce, the tax. The expansion of the cultivated area played the main role in increasing production.

In the course of history, however strong rulers alternated with weak ones and, over long periods, a power struggle between the ruler and his aristocratic officials took place. Under weak rulers, officials quite often pressed more tax than due from the peasants and filled their own pockets. Over time, this weakened the peasants, some times to such an extent that the existence of states was endangered. While, in principle, peasants had the right to cultivate their land as long as they paid taxes, it was not uncommon that impoverished peasants lost their cultivator's rights and became labourers or insecure tenants under the officials who became wealthy, legally or illegally. The institution of tenancy spread, differences between rich and poor became more marked, and land rights became more and more diversified.

The example of India:

When states were founded with one ruler at their head, financing the government became a problem, Soon, the king was given the right to a share of the produce as tax, and he was entitled to the uncultivated land lying between the villages. The tax collectors were remunerated with a share of the collected taxes and a plot of crown land, called "watan land", which was tax free, inheritable and transferable. Thus, out of the need to account of the government allotting land to officials.

As the governments' tasks increased and because of the size of the country, it became important to simplify administration. Therefore, the ruler directly allotted the tax revenue from specific areas to people who had to maintain troops in the provinces, make roads passable, etc. Later, favourites were also provided for in that way, and these cessions often became inheritable.

When the Moghuls conquered India, they hardly touched the man land relations. Peasants could continue to cultivate their land if they paid the usual tax. Former small rulers we a often appointed tax collectors and received 10 % of the collected tax as remuneration, They were strictly controlled so that they could not collect more than due. The Moghuls tried to increase their income by strengthening the tax system. Akbar replaced taxes in kind by monetary taxes, which were collected according to average instead of actual yield, thus shifting the risk onto the cultivator. A land register was introduced, in which land was classified according to soil quality.

But later, when the power of the central government decreased, control over tax revenue was lost In order to recurs revenue at all, tax collectors' posts were leased to the highest bidders against a fixed sum. Tax collectors were then free to extort as much as possible from the cultivators, causing the living conditions of the peasantry to deteriorate.

The transfer of the tax collectors' right regarding specific regions, introduced in pre Moghul times, then became very common. These "jagirs" were transferred all the rights the government held, i.e. taxes, claims to uncultivated land, police power social responsibilities, etc.,but not the claims to the cultivators' land. Whenever the tax collectors became landlords in the course of time, this was due to their reclaiming wasteland or confiscating the land of peasants who owed taxes. These landlords usually cultivated the land with tenants.

The Example of Korea:

In Korea, the emerging central state took over the control of land. Soon, the expansion of the administration led to a powerful class of bureaucrats who were selected on the basis of the bone-rank system according to their social position at birth and not according to their qualification. These officials were paid a share of the tax, but the king often could not control them. It became very common that the oifkials encroached upon the peasants' rights, and the latter were oppressed to such a point that many of them left the land.

The following Koryo dynasty tried to reduce the tax to one third of the harvest. The king's loyal followers received land (tax) grants, which formed the basis of their wealth that was increased, later on, by money lending. In order to control the officials, the king concentrated them in the capital. This and the fact that only the king could grant land the basis of the aristocrats' wealth made them dependent. In the course of time, however, much land came under the officials' control and made them independent from the state. Of importance was the regulation passed by the fourth king of the Koryo dynasty, who redistributed land according to rank and status. This allowed the retired official to retain the land he held because of his rank, now, because of his status. The officials' independence from the state again caused the illegal oppression of peasants, who again left the land.

The new Yi Dynasty (Jonseon Dynasty) confiscated the materiel basis of the Koryo elite, the land, and gave it to the new elite, but with some precautionary measures: officials were never posted in their home areas, were transferred every three years, and central government officials were given land only near the capital.

Around 1600, more thorough changes took place regarding the control of land in connection with the development of the yangban class. To become a official, one had to pas an examination in Chinese and Confucian classics. Accordingly, devoting oneself to intellectual pursuits opened the way to the control of land. To remain yangban, each family had to have at least one member in office, while the remaining members could live on the estate and engage in leisurely activities.In time, hereditary land grants became common and finally led to private lands. The tax collector became landlord, the tax payer, tenant. From the very beginning, the yangban developing from literati-officials to landlords is a contradiction in itself: as officials, they were supposed to work for e strong government based on Confucian virtues. But these very virtues included obligations to their families such as increasing family holdings and wealth which was against the interest of the state. The. institution of hereditary grants strengthened the aristrocracy and made it easy for yangban to give priority to their families.

Besides, during that period, a class of "farmer landlords" developed. The state encouraged the reclamation of uncultivated land by granting tax exemption for ten years. These farmer landlords invested in cultivation and rented the land to tenants. Fixed and share rent became widespread.

Thus, in time, permanent private control of land developed, even if the rights on land consisted of usufruct and tax rights only Landlord tenant relations emerged, absentism, various forms of tenancy exploitation, insecurity and wide differences in the level of living between aristrocracy and peasantry.