3. Peasants and Farmers
The Introduction Of Threshing Machines
(i) During the Napoleonic Wars, prices of foodgrains were high and farmers expanded production vigorously. Fearing a shortage of labour, they began buying the new threshing machines that had come into the market.
(ii) They complained of the insolence of labourers, their drinking habits, and the difficulty of making them work. The machines, they thought, would help them reduce their dependence on labourers. After the Napoleonic Wars had ended, thousands of soldiers returned to the villages. They needed alternative jobs to survive. But this was a time when grain from Europe began flowing into England, prices declined, and an Agricultural Depression set in Anxious, landowners began reducing the area they cultivated and demanded that the imports of crops be stopped. They tried to cut wages and the number of workmen they employed.
(iii) The Captain Swing riots spread in the countryside at this time. For the poor the threshing machines had become a sign of bad times.