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Deliberate change in the way agricultural land is held or owned, the methods of its cultivation, or the relation of agriculture to the rest of the economy. The most common political objective of land reform is to abolish feudal or colonial forms of landownership, often by taking land away from large landowners and redistributing it to landless peasants. Other goals include improving the social status of peasants and coordinating agricultural production with industrialization programs. The earliest record of land reform is from 6th-century-BC Athens, where Solon abolished the debt system that forced peasants to mortgage their land and labour. The concentration of land in the hands of large landowners became the rule in the ancient world, however, and remained so through the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. The French Revolution brought land reform to France and established the small family farm as the cornerstone of French democracy. Serfdom was abolished throughout most of Europe in the 19th century. The Russian serfs were emancipated in 1861, and the Russian Revolution of 1917 introduced collectivization of agriculture. Land reform was instituted in a number of other countries where communists came to power, notably China. It remains a potent political issue in many parts of the world. See alsoabsentee ownership.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on land reform, visit Britannica.com.