Agricultural revolution began with the domestication of plants and animals to ensure that there was effective food production. Before the agricultural revolution, human beings were hunters and gatherers and this was passed from one generation to another. As the agricultural revolution began, the way of life began reversing itself as human beings started becoming food producers. The life of both men and women and the relationship between each other changed more radically than it ever had.
Before the agricultural revolution, men probably woke up seeking their next meal but after the agricultural revolution, man learnt to produce and store it. Men were the hunters of land, water fauna, small birds and animals, built boats and used wood, stone, horn and shell to work. Women were gatherers and they gathered food, fuel, water and cooked food. Women performed most of their activities close to home while male activities involved travelling over long distances and being away from home for a long time. Before the agricultural revolution, the bargaining power between men and women was relatively equal.
The relationship between men and women started changing after the agricultural revolution because the way of life changed. Men no longer hunted but they started domesticating plants and animals. Also, men started settling on one location and the constant travels stopped. Women started working on the firms and the men controlled the resources used in producing food as well as the tools. As human beings embraced agriculture, increased population growth, land scarcity, and cultivation were more intensive. Men used their physical strength to plough and other heavy farm work while women took care of food processing, production, child bearing, and other home-centered activities. This meant that women could no longer be economically viable independently, so they mainly depended on men. This increased the bargaining power of men in the family and this changed the norms and behaviours which later became cultural beliefs on the relationship between men and women. Commercialism created inequalities between men and women as men started controlling women for economic or financial gain. The rise of commercialism during the agricultural revolution has devastating effects on the role and rights of women.
In societies like Egypt where centralized governments handled internal disputes, women had the same burdens with men and had full rights and obligations. However, in societies founded by desert nomads where wars were frequent and settlements were not so permanent, women were deprived of their equal rights rendering them dependent on men.
The bargaining power of men and women were no longer equal and the gender roles changed completely. The decreased role of women in the economy and society following the agricultural revolution continued long after the agricultural revolution women were forced to live as men wished. The division of labour and male dominance in food production during the agricultural revolution were the main reason for the change in the relationship between men and women.
What was the impact on subsequent civilizations?
Before the agricultural revolution, people spent their lives engaging in one basic activity: looking for food through hunting and gathering. However, agrarian revolution meant that people could produce a surplus so they were free to engage in other activities, which led to civilization and the rise of cities and towns. Without surplus food production, civilization would not have taken place.
Agricultural revolution allowed people to live in large settled communities that had reliable and predictable supply of food. Big villages became permanent settlements of communities. Abundant food led to population growth and job specialization. Abundant food meant that the population that did not necessarily have to be farmers could specialize in other activities like crafts, participate in social activities, or even become warriors or priests. The specialized craftsmen and the congregation of people in large communities led to the slow development of cities. Cities were made up of larger villages with high population of people. In the cities and urban settlements that were fed by the surplus food from agricultural revolution, people had the opportunity to engage in science, art and religion.
The increased settlement of people in villages and towns led to the development of well-organized governments that involved kings and rulers who ruled over the towns and did not need to be farmers. Complex religions also emerged as people had the time to interact at new levels which did not involve farming or food production. For instance, urban centres like Jericho had abundant evidence on religious practices including veneration of figurines.
Another impact of the agricultural revolution on civilization was the rise in metalworking as an agricultural technology. Just like the domestication of plants and animals, knowledge of metals quickly became widespread. Metalworking was extremely important for agricultural revolution mainly because it enabled the crafting of more efficient farming tools or even better weaponry. People started inventing better and more efficient tools to be used in food production.
The creation of the agricultural-based societies from the revolution also led to social stratification. People started gathering wealth and property following the agricultural revolution. Social classes that were based on wealth and economic activities emerged and they were made up of the rich and the poor. Unequal classes of the rich and the poor and inequality between men and women became more complex. This meant that goods were distributed unevenly and privileged classes emerged which sponsored warfare and military activities.
The agricultural revolution also created intellectual concepts such as writing and mathematics. Since people had more time and resources, they started developing interests in writing, records, and literature.
Agricultural revolution changed the way people interacted with the world as it enabled them to create culture, religion, and other complex social interactions which is known as civilization.
What can their treatment of women tell us about Greek, Roman, Indian, Japanese, and medieval European civilizations?
During the agricultural revolution, the treatment of women tells us a lot about Greek, Roman, Indian, Japanese, and medieval European civilizations. The role of women generally diminished in most societies during the agricultural revolution and they were treated differently by men. In Greece for instance, marriage was considered a duty and not something they wanted. People got into marriage to honour their ancestors, religions and cities. Marriages were basically arranged and women came in as wives and people to take care of the man’s children. Men never considered their wives as companions to spend time with and they found companionship in other men.
In Rome, the role of men and women and the treatment of women were no different from the norm in Greece. Men entered into marriages as a duty or responsibility while women came in to take care of the home and children. While men engaged in economic and physical activities outside the home, women engaged in activities that were mainly centred around home. Women engaged in monopolistic activities like bearing children, preparing food, and food production and processing. Love did not matter in any male female relationship and it was common for women to engage in prostitution.
Just like in other civilized societies, women had fewer rights than men in Japan. However, there were different classes of women based on the social classes in Japan whereby upper class women learnt reading and writing and studied music and art. Japanese women are known to have produced some of the finest literature during the civilization in Asia.
The medieval European civilization also followed the trend of the classical civilization in Greece and Rome. The church became the dominant influence in the medieval European civilization and dictated both men and women roles. Women had fewer rights than the men and men exploited women for commercial gains. Women were to do all the work at home and take care of the children but had minimal rights or no rights.
In the Indian civilization, women had more rights, sometimes equal rights with men. For example, among the Nootkas, wives were consulted in matters regarding trade and even weaponry. Among the Kandhs, women were treated with respect and honour and nothing in the community was done without consulting them. They even had extraordinary matrimonial privileges including quitting the husband any time or even having the right to have relations with other men.
During early civilization, the treatment of women differed from culture to culture with some giving women equal rights while others having women with no rights at all.