Pub. date: 2012 | Online Pub. Date: May 31, 2012 | DOI: 10.4135/9781452218458 | Print ISBN: 9781412981767 | Online ISBN: 9781452218458| Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
Peasants: Prehistory to 1200: South, Central, and West Asia
Marcella Bush Trevino
Peasantry developed in west, central, and south Asia alongside the rise of settled agricultural societies. Its evolution was shaped by the development of stratified hierarchical civilizations and a variety of land tenure systems. By the end of the period, kings or aristocrats owned most cultivable land, with peasants reduced to serfdom or renter status and obliged to pay land revenues and other taxes. Most peasants lived in self-sustaining villages or Russian communes known as obshchinas . The harsh peasant life included suffering through famine, water shortages, and poverty. Early agricultural settlements developed in areas with favorable geographic and climatic conditions, and their success was closely tied to natural phenomena such as climate changes, droughts, and floods. The development of early civilizations in the region depended on a strong agricultural base to support those not raising their own food, such as craftsmen, traders, and urban residents. The first civilization to appear ...