3. Man-Land Relations under Colonial Rule
Under colonial rule, man land relations like other policies
were changed to serve the interests of the colonial powers.
The intention to increase the efficiency of the tax system
and, with it, the income of the colonial powers caused, in
the course of time, fundamental changes in man-land relations.
The most important one was the introduction of the concept
of private property, unknown until then. Whoever was liable
to pay taxes to the government was made "landlord"
of the territory with alienable, rentable and heritable land
rights. The actual cultivator became tenant, and tenancy in
this process became a widespread phenomenon. By granting ownership
rights to the land aristocracy, the colonial powers bought
their loyalty in making their own and the colonialists' interests
The new landlord- tenant relation did not show negative effects
in the beginning. It was in the landlords' interest to attract
more tenants and bring additional land under cultivation,
since this increased their own income. Only when population
increase and economic changes caused more and more people
to become tenants, did this change in the market forces on
the tenancy market make it possible for landlords to increase
the rent more and more. In addition to an extremely high rent,
many cultivators became indebted to their landlords so that
their dependence was of a multiple nature. Some of the young
people had to leave the land and look for subsistence elsewhere.
Thus, the colonialists' manpower requirements could be met.
On the one hand, because of the impoverished peasants, it
proved impossible to increase production in line with the
population increase, and food shortages became a feature of
the agrarian economy. On the other hand, landlords found it
easier to press the tenants for more rent than to increase
productivity by making investments.
The Example of India:
The East India Company experienced difficulties in its trade
with India because it was prohibited to export gold and silver
from England to pay for Indian merchandise, while the market
for British goods was insignificant. The company solved the
problem by securing Indian money to pay for Indian goods:
it collected taxes for the Indian rulers, after some time,
for all the provinces of Orissa., Bihar and Bengal, against
a fixed sum, while the amount to be collected from the peasants
were left to them.
In its attempt to organize the tax system, after some time,
Lord Cornwallis' 'Permanent Settlement" led to decisive
changes in land tenure. The British registered the local tax
collector as owner of the land in his district. These "zamindars"
had to collect and deliver the taxes, the amount of which
was fixed from the first and remained the same permanently
(permanent settlement). As an incentive, they were free to
decide how much to demand from the cultivators. The fixed
lump sum was an incentive to bring more land under cultivation
and thus have more tax payers in their district.
The right to the land conferred on the zamindar was alienable,
rentable and heritable, a full ownership until then unknown
in India. The cultivators acquired the status of "occupancy,
tenants' which was inheritable and not tampered with as long
as the holders paid their taxes. In contrast to those, the
tenants who cultivated the tax collector's land were tenants-at-will,
i.e. they could be evicted.
In the beginning, the changes caused no problems. In order
to attract cultivators and increase the number of tax payers
in their district (and thus their income, the difference between
the revenue and the fixed amount they had to pay), the zamindars
could not bleed the individual cultivator too much. Later
on, changes in the demographic and economic situation in India
led to detrimental consequences. After the industrial revolution
in England, the East India Company wanted to sell English
products, especially cheap textiles manufactured by mechanical
looms. This led to a collapse of the Indian textile industry.
Large numbers of weavers became unemployed, migrated to the
rural areas and tried to rent land as a new basis of existence.
This rapid increase in the demand for land changed the relationship
between zamindars and tenants completely. It shifted power
into the hands of the " zamindars" who started to
extort more taxes as the demand for land increased. This led
to indebtedness, and many tenants lost their occupancy rights.
The great discrepancy between the fixed amount of tax to
be remitted by the zamindar and Increasing revenues made them
wealthy. They no longer took the trouble of collecting the
taxes themselves, but subleased this office. The sub assignees
did the same and, after some time, 10- 20 intermediaries between
government and cultivators were quite common.
In other parts of India, which came later under British
control, other systems were introduced. In some provinces,
the cultivator was brought in a direct tax relation with the
government, and taxes were settled for 30 years only. In other
areas, taxation was imposed on the village community, which
had to distribute these taxes among the cultivators. Despite
these different systems, the conditions for cultivators deteriorated
constantly. Taxes were high, farms became smaller and smaller
due to the inheritance system, and increasing indebtedness
brought more and more land into the hands of moneylenders,
often better off farmers from the same village. In time, these
well- off farmers subleased their land and led a leisurely
life on the basis of their rental income. As the population
and the demand for land increased, rents became higher and
Thus, after 150 years of colonial rule, many cultivators
had lost their valid hereditary land rights and gone down
to the status of unprotected tenants or labourers. At the
same time, the tax collector became a landlord and large landowner.
A stratum of functionless intermediaries developed, and much
land passed into the hands of moneylenders. The changes in
the land tenure system caused an enormous differentiation
in financial conditions, whereby the mass of peasants lived
in abject poverty. Under this system of rental feudalism,
few investments in agriculture were effected. The cultivators
were too poor, and the landlords tried to increase their income
by skimming off as much rent as possible, instead of increasing
production by means of investments. It soon proved difficult
to feed the increasing population.
The Example of Korea:
After the annexation, the Japanese administration immediately
started a land survey to establish the land value as tax basis
and to clarfy existing rights on land. In addition, private
ownership of land was established by the so called reporting
system. Whoever reported himself as owner was acknowledged
as such. This system announced in the Japanese language was
known only to the Japanese and some members of the Korean
upper class. They took advantage of it and the land thus came
into the hands of the Japanese and some Koreans loyal to them.
For the first time in Korea, this regulation established full
private property of land.
As a result, members of the Japanese and Korean feudal ruling
class became landowners, usually absentees, while the hereditary
tillers on the land became tenants. This relation was often
exploited, the rent increased and gifts were requested in
addition. As the prices of products deteriorated in relation
to input prices, the tenants became indebted. Many of them
lost their rights, became labourers or migrated to other countries.
Under such conditions, all the attempts to increase the rice
production failed as well as the attempt to reclaim more land.
Landlords found it easier to exact higher rent from the tenants
than take the risk of investing in land clearing. When more
food was extracted from Korea during the war, the peasants