NCERT CBSE Class 9 History Chapter 4 Forest Society and Colonialism (FreePDF)

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NCERT CBSE Class 9 History Chapter 4 Forest Society and Colonialism

Welcome to the chapter ¨Forest Society and Colonialism.¨ The CBSE Class 9 History Chapter 4 ¨Forest Society and Colonialism¨ Class 9 Notes discusses Forest Society and Colonialism and delves into the forest, highlighting industrial growth, urbanization, and increased demand for timber and forest products. 

CBSE Class 9 History Chapter 4 ¨Forest Society and Colonialism¨ Class 9 Notes explores the history and impact of deforestation, highlighting how colonial rule intensified the systematic clearing of forests. As populations grew, forests were cleared for agriculture and commercial crops. 

The expansion of railways and plantations accelerated deforestation. Colonial laws and scientific forestry further restricted locals’ access to forest resources, causing hardship and sparking rebellions. 

The chapter also examines similar forest transformations in Java under Dutch rule, illustrating the global nature of deforestation and its consequences.

Download CBSE History Chapter 4 ¨Forest Society and Colonialism¨ Class 9 Notes (Free PDF)
Download NCERT Solutions For Class 9 History ¨Forest Society and Colonialism¨ Social Science Chapter 4 (Free PDF)
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Why Deforestation?

Deforestation refers to the loss of forests and is an age-old problem that became more organized and widespread under colonial rule.

Land to be Improved

As populations grew and food demand increased over the centuries, peasants began clearing forests to create new farmland. The British promoted the cultivation of commercial crops like jute, sugar, wheat, and cotton. 

In the 19th century, the demand for these crops soared. Early in the 19th century, the colonial state considered forests unproductive. Between 1880 and 1920, the expansion of cultivated areas was seen as progress.

Sleepers on the Tracks

By the early 19th century, England’s oak forests were vanishing. They sent search parties to India to find forest resources. Railways, crucial for colonial trade and troop movements, spread rapidly from the 1850s. 

As railway tracks expanded in the 1860s, trees were felled, and forests around the tracks disappeared. The government issued contracts to individuals to supply the needed wood.


Large natural forests were cleared for tea, coffee, and rubber plantations to meet Europe’s growing demand. The colonial government took over the forests and granted vast areas to European planters at low rates for plantation crops.

Also Read: NCERT Class 6 History Chapter 8 ‘Villages, Towns and Trades’: Notes and Solutions (Free PDF)

The Rise of Commercial Forestry

The British worried that traders’ reckless tree use and locals’ forest activities would destroy the forests. Dietrich Brandis, a German expert, became the first Inspector General of Forests in India. He realized the need for a proper system to manage forests and train people in conservation science. In 1864, the Indian Forest Service was established, and in 1906, the Forest Act was enacted, and amended in 1878 and 1927. 

The 1878 Act classified forests into reserved, protected, and village forests, with the best being ‘reserved forests.’

How were the Lives of People Affected?

Villagers needed forests with diverse species for fuel, fodder, and leaves, while the forest department wanted trees like teak and sal for building ships and railways. Forests provided essentials like roots, leaves, fruits, tubers, herbs, yokes, ploughs, and bamboo. 

The Forest Act caused severe hardship for villagers, who had to steal wood to survive. Forest guards demanded bribes if they caught villagers, and both police and guards harassed people for free food.

How did Forest Rules Affect Cultivation?

During European colonialism, the practice of shifting cultivation or swidden agriculture spread. In this traditional method, parts of the forest are cut and burned in rotation. Seeds are sown in the ashes after the first monsoon rains, and crops are harvested by October-November. 

These plots are cultivated for a few years, then left fallow for 12 to 18 years. This mixed-crop system was seen as harmful by European foresters and made tax calculation difficult, leading the government to ban shifting cultivation.

Who could Hunt?

Forest-dwelling people survived by hunting deer, partridges, and small animals. Forest laws banned hunting, and those caught were punished for poaching. Hunting tigers and other animals was a tradition in Indian courts and nobility. 

Under colonial rule, hunting increased, pushing some species to near extinction. The government offered rewards for killing wild animals, and some forest areas were reserved for hunting.

New Trades, New Employments and New Services

New trade opportunities emerged. Forest trade existed since medieval times when Adivasi communities traded elephants, hides, horns, silk cocoons, ivory, bamboo, spices, fibres, grasses, gums, and resins through nomadic communities like the Banjaras. 

However, the government regulated trade, giving large European trading firms exclusive rights to forest products in specific areas. These new opportunities did not improve the people’s well-being.

Rebellion in the Forest

Forest communities rebelled against imposed changes. Leaders like Siddhu and Kanu in the Santhal Parganas, Birsa Munda of Chhotanagpur, and Alluri Sitarama Raju of Andhra Pradesh led these movements.

The People of Bastar

Bastar, in southernmost Chhattisgarh, borders Andhra Pradesh, Orissa, and Maharashtra. Communities like Maria and Muria Gonds, Dhurwas, Bhatras, and Halbas live in Bastar. 
They believed each village was given land by the Earth and made offerings at agricultural festivals in return. Villagers managed natural resources within their boundaries and paid a small fee, called devsari, dand, or man, to take wood from another village’s forests.

The Fears of the People

In 1905, the colonial government proposed reserving two-thirds of the forest, banning shifting cultivation, hunting, and collecting forest produce. Forest villagers worked for the forest department for free. Villagers faced increased land rents and frequent labor and goods demands. 

People discussed these issues in village councils, bazaars, and festivals. The Dhurwas of the Kanger forest initiated resistance where reservation first occurred. Bazaars were looted, and officials’ and traders’ houses, schools, and police stations were burned. 

Grain was redistributed. British troops suppressed the rebellion. After Independence, the practice of keeping people out of forests for industrial use continued.

Forest Transformations in Java

Java, a rice-producing island in Indonesia, was once mostly forested. The Dutch started forest management. Villages existed in fertile plains, with communities in the mountains practicing shifting cultivation.

The Woodcutters of Java

The Kalangs of Java were skilled forest cutters and shifting cultivators, experts in harvesting teak for kings’ palaces. When the Dutch gained forest control in the 18th century, they tried to make the Kalangs work for them. In 1770, the Kalangs resisted by attacking a Dutch fort at Joana, but the uprising was suppressed.

Dutch Scientific Forestry

In the 19th century, the Dutch enacted forest laws in Java, restricting villagers’ forest access. Wood could only be cut for making riverboats or houses. Villagers were punished for grazing cattle, transporting wood without permits, or using forest roads with horse carts or cattle. 

The Dutch imposed rents on forest-cultivated land but exempted villages that provided free labor and buffaloes for timber work, known as the blandongdiensten system.

Samin’s Challenge

Surontiko Samin of Randublatung village, a teak forest village, questioned state ownership of the forest, arguing that the state did not create wind, water, earth, or wood. A widespread movement developed, with Saminists protesting by lying on their land during surveys, refusing to pay taxes or fines, or performing labor.

War and Deforestation

The First and Second World Wars greatly impacted forests. In Java, the Dutch adopted a ‘scorched Earth policy,’ destroying sawmills and burning huge piles of teak logs. After the war, the Indonesian Forest Service struggled to reclaim the land.

New Developments in Forestry

Conserving forests has become a critical goal. Across India, from Mizoram to Kerala, dense forests have survived because villages protected them in sacred groves known as sarnas, devarakudu, kan, rai, and more. These sacred groves have played a vital role in preserving biodiversity and maintaining ecological balance, showcasing the traditional wisdom and cultural practices that contribute to forest conservation.

Also Read: NCERT Solutions For Class 8 History Women Caste and Reform Chapter 7 (Free PDF)

10 Important Points of CBSE Class 9 History Chapter 4 ¨Forest Society and Colonialism¨

Find below the breakdown of the chapter ¨Forest Society and Colonialism.¨

1. Deforestation and Colonial Rule: Deforestation, an age-old problem, became systematic and extensive under colonial rule, driven by the demand for agricultural land and commercial crops.

2. Land Clearing for Agriculture: Growing populations and food demands led peasants to clear forests for new farmland. The British promoted crops like jute, sugar, wheat, and cotton, further accelerating deforestation.

3. Railway Expansion: The expansion of railways from the 1850s required large quantities of timber, leading to the rapid clearing of forests around railway tracks.

4. Plantation Agriculture: Vast areas of natural forests were cleared for tea, coffee, and rubber plantations to meet Europe’s demands, with the colonial government facilitating this by granting land to European planters.

5. Commercial Forestry: Concerned about forest destruction, the British implemented scientific forestry, categorizing forests and restricting local access, which led to significant changes in forest management and conservation laws.

6. Impact on Villagers: The Forest Act and other regulations caused severe hardship for villagers who relied on forests for fuel, fodder, and other essentials. Restrictions forced many to resort to illegal activities and face harassment from authorities.

7. Ban on Shifting Cultivation: European colonialism banned traditional shifting cultivation practices, which were sustainable for local communities but viewed as harmful and tax-evading by colonial authorities.

8. Restrictions on Hunting: Colonial laws prohibited hunting, which was a crucial survival activity for forest dwellers. This, combined with large-scale hunting by colonialists, led to near-extinction of some species.

9. Regulated Forest Trade: Traditional forest trade by Adivasi communities became heavily regulated, with the government granting trade rights to large European firms, often to the detriment of local traders and communities.

10. Rebellions and Resistance: Forest communities rebelled against restrictive laws and practices, with leaders like Siddhu, Kanu, Birsa Munda, and Alluri Sitarama Raju leading movements to resist colonial impositions and preserve their way of life.

Also Read: NCERT Class 7 History Chapter 6 ‘Devotional Paths to the Divine’ Notes and Solutions: (Free PDF)


Q.1. Who could hunt in Class 9 History Chapter 4 ¨Forest Society and Colonialism¨short notes?

Ans: Under colonial rule, forest laws prohibited local communities from hunting, an activity crucial for their survival. Those caught hunting were punished for poaching. 
In contrast, colonial authorities and the nobility hunted extensively, often for sport, driving many species to near extinction. Rewards were given for killing wild animals, and some forest areas were reserved exclusively for colonial hunting.

Q.2. What are the Forest Acts Class 9 History Chapter 4 ¨Forest Society and Colonialism¨short notes?

Ans: Some of the Forest Acts mentioned in  Class 9 History Chapter 4 ¨Forest Society and Colonialism¨ are as follows:

1. Indian Forest Act of 1865: An Initial attempt to regulate forest use, but limited in scope and effectiveness in controlling deforestation.
2. Indian Forest Act of 1878: Divided forests into reserved, protected, and village forests, with strict controls on local community access and use.
3. Indian Forest Act of 1927: Strengthened state control over forests, imposing stricter regulations and penalties on local communities.
4. Categories of Forests: Reserved forests were strictly controlled for commercial use, protected forests allowed some local use, and village forests had more community access.
5. Impact on Local Communities: The Forest Acts restricted traditional rights and access to resources, causing economic hardship and social conflict.

Q.3. What are the main points of Class 9 History Chapter 4?

Ans: Class 9 History Chapter 4, “Forest Society and Colonialism,” explores how colonial policies transformed Indian forests and affected local communities, leading to deforestation, land use changes, and conflicts between colonial authorities and indigenous people.

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