Anthropologists and ecomists have made persistent efforts to identify ecomic features of rural tropical ecomies in the simplest possible terms, in order to enhance their universality. This work has resulted in the creation of a body of doctrine on such matters as the causes of rural ecomic inequality and abysmal poverty which has hardened the arteries of our thought. The doctrine is far too generalised to have any practical utility; it is ahistorical; and it usually involves the dangerous and false belief that all cultivators in any particular community are apt to have similar ecomic responses. So firm is this orthodoxy (which has a wide political spectrum), so great the fear of the chaos which would result from emphasising the significance of the heterogeneity of socio-ecomic structures, that under-development studies have become deadlocked - to the point that our igrance is constantly on the increase. The book represents a radical assault on prevailing orthodoxy: it is an attempt to break the deadlock by insisting on the prior need for the proper categorisation of the main types of agrarian system in the tropical world, which are t necessarily at all numerous. It is, moreover, a thoroughly practical demonstration of the possibilities of identifying one of these important categories and of drawing useful generalised conclusions about it, on the basis of detailed fieldwork in parts of rthern Nigeria and south India.