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Bedouin, fellahs and sultans: History of the Islamic Countryside Week 9: Agrarian Reforms, 1950 -2000 Queen Mary University of London HST 5112, 2011-12.

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Presentation on theme: "Bedouin, fellahs and sultans: History of the Islamic Countryside Week 9: Agrarian Reforms, 1950 -2000 Queen Mary University of London HST 5112, 2011-12."— Presentation transcript:

1 Bedouin, fellahs and sultans: History of the Islamic Countryside Week 9: Agrarian Reforms, Queen Mary University of London HST 5112, Free Officers in Egypt (1952) Agrarian reform in Egypt Iran: Shah’s land reform Islamic Revolution (1979)

2 Egypt, 1930s Political dominance of large land-owners with British support Large private estates, with tenant farmers Vulnerable small-holders (setting of Egyptian Earth) and landless villagers Reliance on cotton Final scene from al-ard (Egyptian Earth), Directed Y. Chahine, 1969

3 Free Officers coup, 1952 Nationalist, anti-British, against land-owning elites Arab socialism – state-led development & Nationalization Building of Aswan Dam: increase in year- round irrigation

4 Land Reforms, Land Reform Laws (1952, 1961): Ceiling to private ownership of land Confiscated land distributed to landless villagers (about 20% of cultivated land) Fixed low rental fees for tenants, and security of usufruct Creation of compulsory peasant co-operatives Government direct control over production & marketing

5 Land Reforms, Effects of Land Reforms: Decline of large estates and rise in peasant small-holdings (63.5% to 20%, 13% to 38%) But in 1986, 40% of villagers are landless Fixed low prices for agricultural produce Average growth in agriculture doesn’t keep pace with demography, despite reform & Aswan Dam

6 Liberalisation, ‘Opening up’ of market economy Land law 96 (1992): liberalization of agrarian land market Abolition of fixed low rents for tenants Tenants (~30% of peasants) could be evicted from their plots Today, 57% of Egypt is rural Hosni Mubarak, President of Egypt (1981 – 2011)

7 Iran: Agrarian Reforms, Comparison with Egypt: Decentralized Tribal & pastoral domination

8 Iran, British-supported monarchy by Reza Shah Old iqta‘-like system (Persian: tuyul) replaced by private ownership Big landowners (royal families, local notables, tribal chiefs) own 2/3 of land Sharecropper tenants are 40% of villagers (rest are small-holders or landless)

9 Shah’s Land Reform, 1960s Motives: Weakening the landowning classes Thwarting communist revolution Transition from ‘feudalism’ to capitalism

10 Shah’s Land Reform, 1960s Ceiling on landownership of one village Transfer of ownership to tenants – affects more than 50% of cultivated land Organization of village co-operatives Promotion of mechanized & commercial farming

11 Shah’s Land Reform Effects of reform: Disappearance of tenant – sharecroppers class and of political power of landed elites Landless villagers remain landless Increases in production and cultivated area Urbanization and demographic expansion (50% live in cities by 1979) Rural migrants: Khomeini’s foot-soldiers?

12 1979 – Islamic Revolution Urban revolution: bazaar, clergy, intellectuals Islamic & popular revolution Landless villagers and small-holders protest & seize remaining large estates Communist activism in countryside

13 1979, Islamic Revolution A second proposed land reform (1979), further limiting maximum ownership; ‘Clause C’ approved in Parliament (1981) Religious objections: Is it Islamic to confiscate private property? Economic objections: dramatic land reform would stifle agricultural economy Repeal of law (1986), legalization of land seizures during the Revolution

14 Land Reforms in Iran Shah’s land reform: initiative from the state and US; dramatic shift in ownership of land; downfall of landowning elites; did it lead to Islamic Revolution? Islamic Republic’s land Reform: initiative from peasants; limited effect on ownership; spread of ‘petty capitalism’ by small farmers


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