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Deforestation is the process by which forests are destroyed.

Deforestation began in India many years ago. It became more systematic and extensive under colonial rule.

Several of the factors that contribute to deforestation are listed below.

  • Land For Cultivation :
    1. As the population grew, the demand for food increased. As a result, peasants began cultivating by clearing forests.
    2. During the colonial period, peasants were forced to expand cultivation areas in order to cultivate commercial crops such as jute, sugar, wheat, and cotton.
    3. As a result, forests were largely destroyed and cultivation area increased by 6.7 million hectares between 1880 and 1920.
  • Enclosure Of Areas For Plantations: large areas of natural forest were cleared to plant tea, coffee, and rubber to meet Europe’s growing demand for these commodities. The Colonial Government seized the forests and sold vast swaths of land to European planters at bargain prices. These areas were enclosed by planters who cleared forests and planted tea and coffee.
  • Railway Network Expansion: From the 1850s, the railway network expanded at a breakneck pace. Wood was required as a fuel source for rail engines (locomotives), and wooden sleepers held the track together. To meet these railway needs, large tracts of forest were felled.
  • Timber Supply For The Royal Navy:  In the 19th century, England’s Royal Navy required a strong and durable timber supply. To ensure the Royal Navy’s timber supply, search parties were sent to India to explore the country’s forest resources. Within a decade, a large number of trees were felled in India, and a large quantity of timber was exported to England.

The Rise Of Commercial Forestry

When India’s forests were rapidly degrading, the British Government appointed a German expert, Dietrich Brandis, as the country’s first Inspector-General of Forests. He recognised the importance of establishing a proper system for forest conservation.

Rules had to be drafted to prohibit tree felling and grazing restrictions in order to preserve forests for timber production. All of Brandis’s efforts culminated in the 1865 Indian Forest Act.

Indian Forest Act, 1865

Dietrich Brandis founded the Indian Forest Service in 1864 and was instrumental in drafting the 1865 Indian Forest Act. Imperial Forest Research Institute, India’s first forest research institute, was established in 1906 in Dehradun.

The institute taught the Scientific Forestry system. Scientific forestry involves the removal of natural forests that contain a variety of tree species and the replacement of them with one type of tree planted in straight rows.

This is referred to as a plantation. For instance, cultivating poplar trees for their timber value.

Forest officials surveyed the forests and determined how much plantation area should be cut and replanted each year. The 1865 Forest Act was amended twice, in 1878 and 1927. No pastoralist was permitted access to commercially valuable timber forests.

The Indian Forest Act of 1878 classified forests as reserved, protected, and village forests. Reserved Forests were designated as the best forests.

Effect Of Forest Act On Lives Of People

Following the forest Act’s implementation, forest dwellers and villagers faced extreme hardship. The Act’s provisions curtailed indigenous peoples’ traditional rights to forests.

The Act prohibited the majority of forest communities’ traditional activities, including cutting wood for homes, collecting fuelwood, grazing the catties, collecting fruits and roots, hunting, and fishing.

Following this, forest guards began accepting bribes from local residents if they were caught stealing wood from the forest.

Products From Forests: Numerous forest products are used by humans as fuel, food, and medicine. They eat the roots, leaves, fruits, tubers, and flowers of various trees and plants. Numerous trees and plants produce medicinal herbs.

The majority of wood and leaves are used as fuel. Seasonal variations in the use of forest products also exist

Prohibition On Hunting After Forest Act

Prior to the forest laws, many people who lived in or near forests managed to live on small animal hunts. This was made illegal under the new forest law.

The Forest Law deprived forest dwellers of their traditional hunting rights. Individuals who were apprehended while hunting were punished.

By colonisers, this illegal hunting was referred to as poaching. Large animals were viewed as a sign of a wild, primitive, and savage society by the British. The scale of hunting increased significantly under colonial rule, and as a result, many animals became nearly extinct.

They believed that by exterminating dangerous animals, they would bring

civilization to India. They offered rewards for the eradication of tigers, wolves, and other large animals in order to remove a threat to cultivators.

Initially, certain forest areas were set aside for hunting. Later on, environmentalists and conservationists argue that all of these animal species should be protected rather than hunted.

Effect Of Forest Rules On Cultivation

The prohibition of shifting cultivation or fallow agriculture was the primary effect of forest laws. Shifting cultivation involves cutting and burning sections of forest in rotation. After the first monsoon rain, seeds are sown in ashes, and the crops are harvested between October and November.

These plots are cultivated for a few years and then neglected for 12 to 18 years to allow the forest to regenerate.These plots are planted with a variety of crops.

European foresters viewed shifting cultivation as detrimental to forests. When a forest is burned, there is always a risk of spreading flames and destroying valuable timber.

Shifting cultivation complicated the government’s tax calculation. Britain’s government prohibited shifting cultivation. As a result, certain communities have been evicted from their homes. Several of them were forced to change careers, while others revolted against the law.

New Trades, New Employments And New Services : People suffered in numerous ways as a result of the forest department’s control over forests, but some people benefited from the new opportunities that had opened up in trade. This occurred not only in India, but throughout the world.

For instance, in response to increased demand for rubber, the Mundurucu people of the Brazilian Amazon began collecting latex from wild rubber trees to sell to traders. From the mediaeval period onwards, trade in forest products was a common occurrence in India.

Following the arrival of the British, the forest products trade was completely regulated. The British government granted exclusive rights to large European trading firms to trade in specific forest products.

Low Wages And Bad Working Conditions : New opportunities for the trade of forest products did not improve the forest people’s standard of living. Santhals, Oraons (Jharkhand), and Gonds (Chhattisgarh) were recruited to work on Assam’s tea plantations.

Their wages were pitiful, and their working conditions were appalling. Additionally, they were unable to easily return to their home villages from where they had been recruited.

Rebellion In The Forest

Forest communities in many parts of India and the world have rebelled against the changes imposed on them. In India, the Santhal Parganas Siddhu and Kanu, Chhotanagpur’s Birsa Munda, and Andhra Pradesh’s Alluri Sitarama Raju revolted against the new forest policy. They are remembered in numerous songs and stories to this day.

The People Of Bastar

Bastar is located in Chhattisgarh’s southernmost region and shares borders with Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, and Maharashtra. Bastar’s central region is a plateau.

It is bounded on the north by the Chhattisgarh plain and on the south by the Godavari plain. The Indrawati river flows east to west through Bastar. Bastar is home to a diverse range of communities, including Maria and Muria Gonds, Dhurwas, Bhatras, and Halbas.

Bastar’s inhabitants speak a variety of languages but share common customs and beliefs. The people believe that Earth provides each village with its land and that they are responsible for the village’s natural resources.

Additionally, they pay homage to the spirits of the river, forest, and mountain. The indigenous people protect all natural resources within their boundaries. If residents of one village wish to take wood from another, they must pay a small fee known as devsari, dand, or man.

The Rise Of Revolt

The people of Bastar banded together and rose up in revolt against the British. They attacked and looted residences, traders, police stations, and schools associated with the colonial state and its oppressive laws. Grain has been redistributed.

After three months, the British troops had subdued the revolt but were unable to capture Gunda Dhue. Following the revolt, work on action was temporarily halted and the reserved area was reduced to roughly half of what had been planned prior to 1910.

Following independence, the practice of excluding people from forests and reserving them for industrial purposes persisted.  The World Bank proposed in the 1970s that 4600 hectares of natural sal forest be replaced with tropical pine to supply pulp for the paper industry. However, the project was halted following protests by local environmentalists.

The Fears Of The People

The Colonial Government’s proposal in 1905 to reserve two-thirds of the forest and prohibit shifting cultivation, hunting, and collection of forest produce created anxiety among the Bastar people.

Certain villages were permitted to remain in the reserved forests on the condition that their residents worked for the forest department free of charge cutting and transporting trees and protecting the forest from fires. These villages earned the moniker ‘forest villages.’

Certain actions taken by colonial officials resulted in widespread displacement and suffering among the populace. Two famines, the first in 1899-1900 and the second in 1907-1908 exacerbated the situation.

The Dhurwas of the Kanger forest, where the forest was first reserved, took the initiative to discuss these issues.

The movement was led by Gunda Dhur of the village Nethanar. In 1910, villagers were invited to rebel against the British using mango boughs, a lump of earth, chillies, and arrows.

Forest Transformations In Java

There were numerous parallels between India and Indonesia’s forest control laws. Java is Indonesia’s most famous rice-producing island. It was mostly covered in forest in previous years. The Dutch were the colonial power in Indonesia, and they desired timber from Java to build ships.

The Woodcutters Of Java

The Kalangs of Java were skilled forest cutters and shifting cultivators. Without their expertise, teak harvesting and the construction of kings’ palaces would have been difficult.

When the Dutch gained control of the forests in the 18th century, they attempted to enslave the Kalangs. The Kalangs resisted in 1770 by attacking a Dutch fort at Joana, but their uprising was put down.

Samin’s Challenge

Surontiko Samin of Randublatung village (a teak forest village) began a campaign against the state’s ownership of the forest around 1890.

By 1907, he had influenced 3000 families. When the Dutch came to survey their land, some Saminists protested by lying down on their land, while others refused to pay taxes, fines, or perform labour.

Dutch Scientific Forestry

The Dutch enacted forest laws in Java in the 19th century, limiting villagers’ access to forests. This law limited the use of forest wood to specified purposes and only from specified forests that were closely monitored.

Villagers were fined for cattle grazing, transporting wood without a permit, and travelling on forest roads with horse carts or cattle. In 1882, Java alone exported 280,000 sleepers. All of this, however, compelled labour to fell the trees, transport the logs, and prepare the sleepers.

The Dutch were the first to impose rents on forest-cultivated land. It then exempted certain villages from these requirements. rents if villagers collaborated to provide free labour and buffaloes for timber cutting and transportation.

This system was dubbed the blandongdiensten. Later, in place of rent exemptions, ‘forest villages’ were granted low wages in exchange for the right to cultivate forest. Land was scarce. Java is where the Dutch began their scientific study of forests.

War And Deforestation

The Allies exploited their colonies’ resources (primarily forests) and people and won both the First and Second World Wars. Both of these Vars wreaked havoc on India’s forests and other colonies. In India at the time, the forest department was freely felling trees to meet British war requirements.

In Java, just prior to Japanese dominance, the Dutch pursued a Scorched Earth Policy. Following this policy, the Dutch destroyed sawmills and burned massive piles of giant teak logs to keep them out of the hands of the Japanese.

The Japanese then recklessly exploited the forests for their own gain. Due to the fact that many villagers took advantage of this opportunity to expand cultivation in the forest during the war, it became difficult for the Indonesian forest service to reclaim this land.

New Developments In Forestry

Since the 1980s, governments throughout Asia and Africa have discovered that scientific forestry and a policy of excluding forest communities have resulted in numerous conflicts.

Now, forest conservation takes precedence over timber harvesting.  The government recognised that in order to conserve forests, residents living near them must be involved.

Throughout India, forests have survived largely due to villagers’ protection in sacred groves known as Samas, devarakudu, kan, and rai.

Several villagers have taken to patrolling their own forests rather than relying on forest guards.  Local forest communities and environmentalists are now considering alternative approaches to forest management.

NCERT questions & answers from Chemical Reactions and Equations

Q1. Discuss how the changes in forest management in the colonial period affected the following groups of people?


  • Shifting Cultivators –
    • The colonial authorities prohibited shifting cultivation on the grounds that it was detrimental to the forest.
    • As a result, indigenous peoples were forced to flee their homelands. Numerous individuals have been compelled to change careers.
    • Others took to the streets to protest the colonial overlords’ policies.
  • Nomadic and Pastoralist Communities – 
    • Numerous pastoralists and nomadic groups were displaced as a result, including the Korava, Karacha, and Yerukula of the Madras Presidency.
    • Numerous of them have earned the moniker “criminal tribes.” They were compelled to work in factories and on plantations.
  • Firms Trading In Forest/Timber Produce –
    • India was not a pioneer in the trade of forest goods.
    • There is evidence that Adivasi societies traded in skins, horns, silk cocoons, ivory, bamboo, spices, fibres, grasses, and gums, eventually ascending via nomadic communities such as the banjaras.
    • After the British arrived, the government exercised complete control over commerce.
    • British authorities granted European corporations exclusive rights to trade in forest products.
  • Plantation Owners –
    • Men and women from forest communities such as Jharkhand’s Santhals and Oraons, as well as Chhattisgarh’s Gonds, were recruited to work on Assam’s tea plantations.
    • Their wages were insufficient, and their working conditions were deplorable. They were unable to return to their communities of origin.
  • British officials engaged in Shikhar – 
    • While forest regulations restricted people’s hunting rights, big game hunting developed into a form of sport.
    • In India, the court hunted tigers and other animals. Colonial control, on the other hand, increased hunting to the point where many species became extinct.
    • Large animals were regarded as a symbol of primitive culture by the British.
    • By slaughtering large animals, the British believed they could civilise India.
    • Tigers, wolves, and leopards were hunted in order to eliminate predators that posed a threat to farmers. 400 tigers were slaughtered by George Yule, a British administrator. Environmentalists and conservationists could argue that these species required protection only after a lengthy period of time had passed.

Q2. What are the similarities between the colonial management of the forests in Bastar and in Java?


  • In Bastar and Java, colonial forest management followed a similar pattern. Bastar is a state in India, whereas Java is an island in Indonesia.
  • The Bastar people exhibited an incredible amount of reverence for mother Earth. The inhabitants of Bastar coexisted peacefully within their own defined boundaries.
  • Residents of Bastar expressed concern about their future when the Colonial Government implemented the policy of ‘forest reserve.’
  • Although the majority of residents were evicted, a few were permitted to remain and work for free for the forest department. This infuriated the residents of Bastar.
  • In the early 1900s, an uprising against forest reserves was fueled by starvation. However, the British destroyed the rebellion.
  • The indigenous people’s sole victory was when the colonial authority agreed to reduce reserved woodlands by half. The plight of Java’s forest peasants was eerily similar to that of Bastar’s inhabitants.
  • Indonesia was ruled by the Dutch. Expert forest cutters from Java were in high demand. In the 18th century, the Dutch gradually gained control of Java’s forests.
  • Villagers revolted, but the uproar was quickly put down. As was the case in Bastar, the Dutch enforced forest regulations.
  • Villagers were prohibited from entering the woods, and those who disobeyed the prohibition faced severe consequences.

Q3. Between 1880 and 1920, the forest cover in the Indian subcontinent declined by 9.7 million hectares, from 108.6 million hectares to 98.9 million hectares. Discuss the role of the following factors in this decline


  • Railways:
    • They played a critical role in colonial commerce and army transport.
    • Wood was required as fuel for locomotives, and sleepers were required to keep railway lines connected.
    • By 1890, approximately 25,500 kilometres of track had been laid and a growing number of trees had been felled.
    • Each year, 35,000 trees were felled for sleepers in the Madras Presidency alone.
  • Shipbuilding: Oak woodlands began to disappear in England in the early nineteenth century. As a result, the Royal Navy faced a lumber shortage. Ships cannot be built without a steady supply of solid and durable lumber. Ships were necessary for the protection of foreign colonies and commerce. Within a decade, large-scale tree felling occurred and Indian wood was exported.
  • Agricultural expansion: Woods were deemed unproductive by colonial authorities. They required cultivation in order to produce agricultural products and generate revenue. Thus, between 1880 and 1920, agriculture expanded by 6.7 million hectares.
  • Commercial agriculture: The British encouraged the cultivation of commercial crops such as jute, sugar, wheat, and cotton. The demand for these crops increased dramatically during the nineteenth century in Europe, as food grains and raw materials for industry were required to feed an expanding population.
  • Tea/Coffee plantations: To meet the growing demand for tea, coffee, and rubber, vast swaths of forest have been cleared. The colonial administration took control of the woods and sold large swaths of land at bargain prices to European planters. These locations have been planted with tea, coffee, and rubber trees.
  • Indigenous peoples and other peasant users: In the early days, Adivasis communities traded items such as skins, horns, silk cocoons, ivory, bamboo, grasses, gums, spices, resins, and fibres through nomadic tribes such as the banjaras. This resulted in an additional loss of forest cover.

Q4. Why are forests affected by wars?


  • Both the First and Second World Wars wreaked havoc on woodlands. In India, the forest administration felled trees at will to meet British wartime requirements.
  • The British Navy required reinforcement, and lumber was required to build warships. In Java, the Dutch imposed ‘a scorched earth’ strategy.
  • They destroyed sawmills and burned massive piles of enormous teak logs during the war to prevent the Japanese from obtaining it.
  • When the Japanese invaded Indonesia, they made military use of the woods.
  • They compelled forest dwellers to clear forests.
  • Numerous communities seized this opportunity to clear forests and establish crops.
  • The Indonesian forest service was unable to reclaim the villagers’ forest land following the battle’s conclusion.
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