In colonial India, the economy of the countryside was not exclusively the economy of settled agriculture. Peasants lived alongside fisherfolk, shifting cultivators, hunters-gatherers, and herders, and they all depended on resources available in common such as water, forests, or grasslands. Over the past two decades or so, the relationship between the commons, the society, and the colonial state have attracted the interest of historians. This scholarship is based on two basic premises: first, the relationship was mediated by the changing economic value of common property resources, and second, colonialism was an ‘ecological watershed’ in Indian history. This chapter addresses these themes, focusing on types of common land, people who were dependent on forests, village commons and pastures, and patterns of land use. The scholarship on common property resources in colonial India has been dominated by three themes: knowledge, control, and commerce.
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