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Chapter-4 Forest Society & Colonialism | Class 9th SST History NCERT

Hi students, this is Krati. I understand how social science could be boring for some students ,however i did my best to make it easy for you all. Section-2 of class 9th History NCERT contains two chapter 👇

Section II: Livelihoods, Economies and Societies

IV. Forest Society and Colonialism

V. Pastoralists in the Modern World

So let's check the notes for fourth chapter and do leave your review down at the end of the post 🤩


1.Why Deforestation?

Deforestation: Key Points

  • Definition: Deforestation refers to the gradual disappearance of forests over time.

  • Historical Context: Deforestation is not a recent issue; it began centuries ago but intensified under colonial rule.


  • Expansion of Cultivation: Population growth and the demand for food led peasants to clear forests for cultivation, especially during the colonial period.

  • Commercial Agriculture: British colonial policies encouraged the production of commercial crops like jute, sugar, wheat, and cotton, leading to extensive deforestation.

  • Demand for Timber: The depletion of oak forests in England prompted the search for timber resources in India, leading to massive deforestation for export.

  • Railway Expansion: The spread of railways in India from the 1850s created a demand for wood as fuel and sleepers, resulting in widespread deforestation along railway tracks.

  • Plantations: Large areas of natural forests were cleared to make way for tea, coffee, and rubber plantations to meet European demand.

  • Impact: Deforestation has significant environmental consequences, including loss of biodiversity, soil erosion, and disruption of local ecosystems.

  • Colonial Legacy: The colonial government played a significant role in promoting deforestation for economic gain, leading to long-term environmental degradation.

2. The Rise of Commercial Forestry

Impact of British Forest Policies

Introduction of Scientific Forestry

  • Appointment of German expert Dietrich Brandis as first Inspector General of Forests in India.

  • Establishment of Indian Forest Service in 1864.

  • Formulation of Indian Forest Act in 1865.

  • Establishment of Imperial Forest Research Institute in Dehradun in 1906.

Scientific Forestry Practices

  • Implementation of scientific forestry involved clearing natural forests and planting single species in straight rows, known as plantations.

  • Working plans for forest management were created, determining the annual cutting areas and replanting schedules.

  • The scientific forestry system was criticized by many, including ecologists, for its lack of sustainability.

Impact on Villagers

  • Villagers relied on forests for various resources such as fuelwood, fruits, medicinal herbs, and materials for daily use.

  • Forest Act of 1865 made many traditional practices illegal, leading to severe hardships for villagers.

  • Villagers resorted to illegal activities such as stealing wood, leading to conflicts with forest guards.

Impact on Shifting Cultivation

  • European foresters viewed shifting cultivation as harmful to forests and banned the practice.

  • Communities practicing shifting cultivation were forcibly displaced, leading to resistance and rebellion.

Regulation of Hunting

  • Forest laws prohibited traditional hunting practices, leading to punishment for poaching.

  • Hunting of big game became a sport among the British elite, resulting in the near-extinction of certain species.

  • Gradual recognition of the need for conservation efforts to protect wildlife.

Economic Changes and Displacement

  • Some individuals benefited from new opportunities in forest trade, while others faced displacement from traditional livelihoods.

  • Regulation of trade by the British government favored large European trading firms, leading to the marginalization of local communities.

  • Recruitment of forest communities for labor in industries such as tea plantations resulted in poor wages and working conditions.

3. Rebellion in the Forest

Rebellion in Bastar (1910)

Background of Bastar

  • Located in southern Chhattisgarh, bordering Andhra Pradesh, Orissa, and Maharashtra.

  • Inhabited by various communities such as Maria and Muria Gonds, Dhurwas, Bhatras, and Halbas.

  • Villagers believe in a symbiotic relationship with nature, respecting the Earth, rivers, forests, and mountains.

  • Villages maintain boundaries and regulate resource use through customary practices like payment for forest produce and community hunts.

Impact of Colonial Policies

  • Proposed reservation of two-thirds of the forest in 1905, banning shifting cultivation, hunting, and forest collection.

  • Some villages allowed to remain as "forest villages," compelled to work for the forest department.

  • Other villages displaced without compensation, facing increased rents and demands for free labor.

  • Devastating famines in 1899-1900 and 1907-1908 heightened tensions.

Initiation of Rebellion

  • Villagers organized discussions in councils, bazaars, and festivals to address grievances.

  • Gunda Dhur from Nethanar emerged as a prominent figure.

  • In 1910, messages circulated between villages, rallying support for rebellion.

  • Villagers contributed resources, and targeted colonial officials, traders, schools, and police stations.

Suppression and Consequences

  • British troops deployed to suppress the rebellion, surrounding and firing upon adivasi camps.

  • Villages deserted as people fled into the jungles.

  • British regained control after three months, but failed to capture Gunda Dhur.

  • Reservation plans temporarily suspended, reducing the area to be reserved by half.

Post-Independence Continuation

  • After independence, forest policies continued to exclude people from forests for industrial purposes.

  • World Bank proposed replacing natural sal forests with tropical pine for the paper industry in the 1970s.

  • Local protests led to the cessation of the project, highlighting ongoing struggles for forest rights.

Legacy of Bastar Rebellion

  • Remembered through songs and stories, the rebellion symbolizes resistance against colonial oppression.

  • Reflects the enduring struggle of forest communities for autonomy and resource rights amidst changing socio-political landscapes.

4. Forest Transformations in Java

Forest Transformations in Java

  • Java is now a prominent rice-producing island in Indonesia.

  • Historically, it was heavily forested.

  • Dutch colonial power initiated forest management, similar to British practices in India.

  • Timber, especially teak, was crucial for shipbuilding.

The Woodcutters of Java

Kalangs Community:

  • Skilled forest cutters and shifting cultivators.

  • Integral to harvesting teak for palace construction.

  • Post-1755 division of the Mataram kingdom saw 6,000 Kalang families split between two kingdoms.


  • 1770: Kalangs attacked a Dutch fort at Joana but were suppressed.

Dutch Scientific Forestry

Forest Laws:

  • Enacted in the 19th century to control both territory and people.

  • Restricted villagers' access to forests.

  • Timber extraction regulated; villagers needed permits for wood and faced punishment for infractions.

Forest Service:

  • Essential for managing timber for shipbuilding and railways.

  • By 1882, Java exported 280,000 sleepers.

Blandongdiensten System:

  • Villagers provided free labor and buffaloes in exchange for rent exemption.

  • Later replaced by small wages, restricting cultivation rights in forests.

Samin’s Challenge

Surontiko Samin:

  • Questioned state ownership of forests around 1890.

  • Argued natural resources like wind, water, earth, and wood could not be owned by the state.


  • Spread rapidly, organized by Samin's sons-in-law.

  • By 1907, 3,000 families adopted Samin's ideas.

  • Protests included lying on land during surveys, refusing taxes, fines, and labor.

War and Deforestation

Impact of World Wars:

  • Forest management plans abandoned during WWI and WWII.

  • Dutch adopted 'scorched earth' policy before Japanese occupation, destroying sawmills and burning teak logs.

  • Japanese exploited forests for war industries, forcing villagers to cut down trees.

Post-War Period:

  • Villagers expanded cultivation in forests.

  • Indonesian forest service struggled to reclaim land post-war.

  • Ongoing conflict between agricultural needs and forest department control.

New Developments in Forestry

Shift in Focus:

  • Since the 1980s, conservation over timber collection has become priority.

Involvement of Local Communities:

  • Recognition of the need to involve forest communities in conservation.

  • Dense forests in India, like sacred groves (sarnas, devarakudu, kan, rai), survived due to village protection.

Community-Led Management:

  • Villages patrol forests, each household taking turns.

  • Local communities and environmentalists exploring new forest management forms.


Colonial policies on forests profoundly impacted ecosystems and indigenous communities. The British in India and the Dutch in Java imposed systematic forest management, disrupting traditional land use and marginalizing locals. Restrictions on activities like shifting cultivation and hunting led to widespread displacement and hardships.

Wars intensified deforestation, with colonial forces exploiting forests for military needs. Post-war efforts to reclaim forest lands highlighted ongoing conflicts between conservation and local needs.

By the late 20th century, a shift towards involving local communities in forest management emerged, recognizing the failures of previous policies. Sustainable practices, such as village patrolling and protecting sacred groves, demonstrated effective ways to balance ecological preservation and indigenous rights.

This history underscores the importance of integrating local knowledge and participation in forest management for sustainable and equitable conservation.


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