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Land Tenure and Plantation Life


Land Tenure and Plantation Life . . .


There are essentially four types of land in the Domination:

  1. Urban
       Urban land tenure is closest to what Western civilization understands by private property, although Municipal governments own extensive areas and have strong zoning authority.

  2. State Reserve Land
       National parks, State forests, wildlife reserves. About 15 percent of the Domination's territory before the Eurasian War, rather more thereafter. The whole complex is managed by the Conservancy Directorate, which also oversees forestry — forest land is leased out to "private" firms on a sustained-yield management basis. Most desert and mountain areas are State Reserve; agriculturally marginal areas in the territories conquered in 1941–46 are generally turned over to this category.
       A sub-category is land used for State installations — schools, military bases, firing ranges, research installations — which is leased and administered by the institution in question.

  3. Settlement Reserve Land
       Land suitable for plantation or urban development but not yet so distributed. Granted (in newly conquered areas) or auctioned (if physically reclaimed, e.g. through irrigation or drainage). Until then usually run by the Agriculture and Land Settlement Directorate.

  4. Rural/Agricultural Land
       The countryside in productive use is split into what are formally known as "plantation landholdings." These are technically leased from the State rather than owned; they may be sold (although there is a heavy sales tax when this is outside the family of the landholder) but are subject to certain restrictions on use:
    1. The landholder must be resident at least 3/4 of the year, unless on State service (e.g., in the armed forces). Persistent violation will result in the property being adjudged "abandoned" and it will be released or put up for compulsory sale, usually to another member of the family.
    2. The land must be properly managed; this implies first careful prevention of soil erosion, salination etc. Second, it must be managed as a single productive unit and the serfs kept "in order"; mostly confined to a single Quarters village and not allowed to wander abroad, etc. Penalties for violation as above.
    3. A certain ratio of free to serf inhabitants must be maintained, and a plantation (except in emergency situations) can never be left without a free adult to oversee it; wages and working conditions of overseers are also State-mandated, and this is enforced by the Overseers Guild (informally known as the Brotherhood of the Lash). The effective maximum number of serfs per plantation is around 1,000; the average is between 600–1,000.
    4. No individual may lease more than one plantation landholding; attempting to do so is a serious offense. Subdivision is forbidden except with government authorization: this is allowed in cases where changes in land usage (e.g., irrigation or conversion from pasture to arable) make the original units unwieldy.


Plantation Life — general.

   Plantation size varies considerably with geography, soils, climate, predominant crop etc. The general rule is to adjust size to allow for full employment of a labor force of average numbers; thus a ranching operation in the sub-Saharan zone or Mongolia might be hundreds of thousands of acres, while an irrigated plantation in the Nile Delta growing fruit and vegetables might be as little as 1,000–2,000 acres.
   Whatever the product, the estate is run as a single large farm controlled from the manor or "Great House." The central settlement is divided into three parts:

  1. The Great House proper, containing the living quarters of the landholding family and free staff (overseers, etc.), administrative serfs (bookkeepers, etc.), the domestic servants, the armory, kitchens, laundry, House stables and garages, and so forth. Two- to three-story buildings around a series of courtyards are the most common, with adjustments for climate. Any well established plantation will include park-grounds (up to 20–30 acres), kitchen gardens, a bath-wing (on the Roman model but with embellishments), libraries, sports facilities, a salle d'armes, etc. Domestic staffs are usually between 30 and 70.
  2. The Quarters, or serf village. Individual family cottages are grouped around a central green; piped water, sewage (linked to methane-generation systems), electricity and gas (methane-generated) have become increasingly common. Around the common will be the communal facilities: a bathhouse (daily bathing is usually compulsory), bakehouse (for breads and roasts), laundry, infirmary and lying-in clinic (with a trained nurse's aide and midwife), storehouse, and possibly a small church, mosque, or temple depending on the region.
       Normal cottages are (with variations) four-room with attics; building materials vary widely, and are usually locally-produced. The headman, priest, gang-foremen and skilled serfs (blacksmiths, mechanics, livestock specialists, vintners etc.) may have larger houses; unmarried wenches and bucks past 18 are often separately housed.
       Small kitchen gardens, and sometimes chicken-coops and rabbit-hutches are attached to the cottages. Cats are common, but only privileged serfs are allowed to keep dogs.
  3. The grange, or working areas. This would include barns, storehouses, machine and blacksmith's shops, possibly a methane or hydro power system, the sewing-shop where plantation clothing is made, equipment stores, holding pens for live-stock and any other necessary establishments. Very large plantations (ranches, for example) may have outlying granges, and groups of serfs may be assigned for periods of up to several weeks; however, permanent residence away from the Quarters is very rare.
       Primary processing, such as crushing grapes or olives, drying coffee, shearing and sorting wool, crushing sugar, etc. is carried on in the grange; there are also facilities for bulk storage. Final processing — grain milling, cotton ginning and baling, meat-packing — is usually carried on by the Landholder's League at central points; the raw or semi-processed products are picked up by League steamtrucks, and graded, and the Landholder's account credited.

Labor Management

Workers (hands) are graded as full (healthy adult) or partial, in increments of 1/4. Worknorms are set by time-and-motion study methods, sometimes by professional consultants furnished by the Landholder's League. Dossiers are kept on each individual serf (this is required by law) with a full medical and disciplinary history, ready for quick reference.

Routine work is "tasked," usually by the week, to serf-gangs or combinations of gangs. Each gang (usually 10–20 hands, for field workers) has a driver or bossboy, appointed by the overseers, who is responsible for output and immediate discipline. Section bosses may be appointed to superintend larger operations; a pen-boss for the sheep pens, for example, a winery-boss for the grape-pressing sheds, a herd-boss for a group of animals; they would have a permanent staff and gangs of unskilled labor assigned as needed. Output for a particular task may be set individually or by gang — a certain area hoed of weeds, for example, would be done by gang, while picking cotton or fruit would be individually graded against the preset norm.

Skilled serfs, such as smiths or carpenters, are usually employed in or at least based out of the grange and work alone or in small groups; training is by apprenticeship.

Permanent gangs exist, sometimes with specialized functions. For example: building gangs, fence-repair gangs, stock gangs etc., although for harvest or emergencies everyone is mobilized.

Hours of labor are seasonal. The usual procedure is for a bell to be rung at dawn; hands have an hour to eat, dress and assemble in their gangs for the day's work; fieldworkers either walk or are trucked to their tasks. An hour is provided for the midday meal; those working about the settlement eat in their homes, while lunch is carried to those in the fields. At harvest or in emergencies the evening meal may also be eaten in the fields and work continue into the night; usually the day ends after about 10 hours of labor, the hands return to the Quarters, bathe, eat the evening meal and have until about 11:00 for private activity. At "lights out" all serfs must be in their cottages, and no movement outside is permitted except in urgent situations (e.g., sickness, fire, a woman going into labor). Most plantations give Sundays and half Saturday off, with other holidays at customary intervals — after harvest, Christmas, and on occasions such as a marriage or birth in the Great House.

Food rations are usually issued weekly, although some perishable products are kept in refrigerated storehouses and handed out more frequently, and some staples (e.g., dried beans) less often. Bread is issued prebaked. Diet varies according to the local crops; grain or other carbohydrates are the basis, with meat or fish at about 5 lb. per adult per week, dairy products and fruit in season. Vitamin supplements are becoming increasingly common. Spices, coffee, tea, sugar and wine or beer are also issued; skilled serfs and supervisors receive more, and more high-status foods such as meat.

Clothing, bedding and household utensils are issued four times yearly; undergarments, shoes and socks are now (1990s) generally factory-made, while clothing proper is run up by plantation seamstresses. Individuals may earn thread, ribbons etc. as "extras" and decorate their or their family's clothing.

Discipline is maintained by a complex system of rewards and punishments. Rewards include extra rations, clothing or other luxuries; promotion (e.g., to a skilled position or domestic service) or public recognition. Punishments range from deprivation of privileges (e.g. having to work during holidays or spend them in the ergastulum, the serf jail), to extra hours of daily labor, to physical punishment. Light physical punishment — not more than 10 strokes with a cane switch — may be administered by serf supervisors, such as gang-bosses and the headman (who is responsible for general discipline and cleanliness in the Quarters). The overseers or the landholder may administer heavier punishments, in rare or extreme cases up to mutilation or death. There is a generally a semi-formalized system of plantation courts, held weekly or monthly, to deal with offenses between serfs — fighting, stealing, etc.; the landholder or overseer hears testimony, takes the advice of the headman and gang-bosses, and pronounces sentence; at these times, ordinary serfs may also make complaint against the serf supervisors, although they would be well-advised to have multiple witnesses. Sentences for other offenses — e.g., shirking work or insolence — will also be pronounced on those occasions.

Sentences (other than deprivation of privileges) may be flogging, time in the stocks, or working in chains. Floggings are administered in public, usually with medical help standing by. Mutilations such as gelding or ear-cropping fell out of general use (by the 1880's) but may still be used on occasion, especially in newly-settled territories. Incorrigibles may be branded and sold as such, and will in that case end up in a destructive-labor camp, mine or other such terminal location. Attempted escape, assault on a free Citizen, possession of weapons or forbidden literature, etc. are crimes against the State and may involve the Security Directorate (usually the Orpos, the Order Police); the usual punishment for these offences is breaking on the wheel (the offender is tied to a wheel and the major bones broken with an iron rod) and then impalement. Death sentences are carried out in public, usually in the nearest town, but some serfs from the offender's plantation are brought in to be part of the compulsory audience.

Non-productive Individuals

Pregnant women are put on light work, and excused from any but light sedentary labor from the fourth month. Infants are born under the supervision of trained midwives, or when necessary doctors; mother and child then usually remain in the infirmary for up to several days. Nursing mothers are employed (at gradually increasing intensities) in work around the Quarters or nearby fields, and given regular intervals to feed their infants; continuous supervision is provided by full-time child-minders. Barring medical complications, weaning is usually complete within 6–12 months; bottle feeding is available when breast milk is insufficient.

Infants are formally registered and neck-tattooed at the age of about one year; this is usually done in the plantation infirmary, with a Security representative present.

Children are left to their parents (and their crθche-supervisors during the working day) until about age six. After this, they are assigned light chores around the Quarters for a few hours each day, and sometimes allowed to accompany parents to the fields or workshops, where they may do small helping-out tasks. Those who show exceptional aptitude may be given basic schooling, literacy and numeracy; children of skilled workers and especially clerks tend to be selected for such training. Hours of work gradually increase until roughly puberty, at which time the young serf is enrolled as a quarter-hand and assigned to a gang, or assigned as a full-time helper and apprentice to an artisan, or selected as a domestic (many ordinary maidservants serve in the Great House for a few years prior to marriage and then return to the Quarters). Most hands gradually learn the necessary skills during adolescence, and graduate to "full hand" status in the early twenties.

There is daily sick call, at the infirmary; although there is no formal provision for sick leave, a limit of a day or two per month with no obvious symptoms is generally allowed. Beyond this, a doctor may be called in — and punishment administered if no real cause for complaint is found. Those with obvious symptoms (e.g., fever, nausea, severe headache) will be treated either at the infirmary or at home; serious cases will again bring a doctor, and possible hospitalization. Doctors are generally Citizens, employed by the League and on call for plantations in a given area; serf hospitals are maintained by the League and possibly by Combines and private owners in the area, and available to all League members. Preventative medicine is emphasized, vaccination and inoculation are compulsory, and the plantation population is generally physically healthy.

The chronically ill and crippled are given maintenance care work suitable to their limitations — e.g., basketry or dishwashing for those who cannot walk, etc. As serfs age and their strength and physical stamina decline, they are reduced from full to three-quarter hands and so on; by late middle age they will often be transferred from field work to child-minding and other light tasks (supervisors and skilled workers retire later, and a headman is often elderly). The aged are not required to work and are generally looked after by their families; if this is not sufficient, the headman will assign their care on a rotating basis to provide cooking, cleaning, etc.

Agricultural Marketing and Technique

The Domination's agricultural sector might be described as semi-market farming, with semi-mechanized methods. Some areas of high-value, high-productivity land are under specialized crops — e.g. the market gardening of the Nile Delta, the rice and date plantations of southern Iraq, etc.; such areas import their staple foods (through the bulk-sales division of the League). Most areas produce a mixture of food crops and possibly one or more cash crops (e.g., cotton, sisal, coffee, wool); the surplus left once the labor-force is fed is sold through the League, along with industrial crops. The industrial labor force is fed by its Combine owners, who buy in bulk from the League and distribute the product to their compound messhalls; the League also sells to smaller-scale private owners in the cities, sometimes in the form of preprocessed ration-packs, and of course to the State and the armed forces. Higher-quality foods for Citizen consumption are marketed either through private stores and restaurants (which may buy from the League or direct from planters) or by purchasing cooperatives, often run through free-employee guilds.

Most regions are roughly self-sufficient in basic foodstuffs, importing only products which the local climate cannot grow, such as wine in the tropics, sugar in the temperate zone, etc. Large-scale processing industries such as textiles, leatherworking etc. are where possible located near the producing areas, although industrial inertia and other factors such as energy supplies sometimes play a part. Alexandria, Egypt, is still a textile center even though the lower Nile is no longer a cotton-producing area; the factories and ancillary manufacturing were there, and it was not worthwhile to move them. While serfs usually live on the staple products of an area (sorghum in West Africa, rice in Iraq, wheat in Kazakhstan, etc.), Citizen diets are more uniform and hence involve more long-distance trade; for example, in air-freighted fresh fruit and vegetables.

Agricultural techniques emphasize long-term stability (practices which undermine soil fertility are regarded with horror), productivity per acre rather than per man-hour (since labor is cheap and abundant), and ease of management. Farming is deliberately kept rather over-manned, to act as a labor reservoir in times of stress, such as a long war. Mechanized cultivation — tractors, combine harvesters — is not used where animal traction is possible, for a number of reasons. First, it would place an unacceptable strain on the supply of skilled labor and require a huge infrastructure of fuel, repair and supply. Second, it would divert manufacturing capability from more important aims, e.g. producing tanks. Third, while industrial productivity is considered desirable both for military reasons and to keep the urban working class as small as practicable, plantation hands are considered the most desirable source of Janissary recruits.

Cultivation is by hand labor and animal-powered machinery; within these limitations, tools are abundant and well-designed. Careful attention is given to field layout, for example to placing the more labor-intensive activities close to the Quarters. Power-driven machinery is extensively used for processing, pumping of irrigation water and other work where hand methods are inappropriate. All estates have a number of steam trucks and "drags," often used for transporting workers to outlying sections of the plantation, and great care is devoted to keeping the plantation's internal roads in order. Draka agronomy and biology are excellent, and continual research is done by the League and the Institutes on the development of improved strains of plant and animal, and on pest control. Emphasis is placed on biological controls rather than pesticides (which are occasionally used but distrusted), especially by habitat control — e.g. by avoiding monoculture of a particular crop. Several species of African animal have been domesticated and are used for meat and hide production; eland, a number of antelope, zebra. Wherever possible plantations will include woodlots for timber, fuel and wildlife production, and farming practices are adjusted to enhance wildlife habitat, e.g. by using live hedges rather than metal fences where possible. Aesthetics also plays a central role, and Draka will go to considerable expense to make a landscape look agreeable. The general motto is "Live as if you're going to die tomorrow; farm as if you're going to live forever." A plantation (which requires generations of management to achieve full potential) is regarded as an inheritance to be cherished, not a resource to be exploited.

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